My brave Vermont quest to bring together food-love and mom-life.

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Dandelion Fritters 0

Posted on May 10, 2011 by crankycheryl

It’s May in Vermont so I’m looking at leaves.  With the rain, all the rain, and the sun the world just seemed to bounce into technicolor overnight.  Now the trees are all blossoming in that golden green of spring, vibrant everywhere.  Chartreuse fuzzy leaves, new red maple buds, dogwood and flowers suddenly there.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit how amazing I find plants.  Really – a tomato plant in fruit can leave me speechless.  How do these simple life forms know to do what they do – a petal here, a bud there, a leaf that curls just so.   How does a bud know when to open?  How does it turn that tightly curled bead into an unfurled leaf overnight?

But this year I’ve been teaching in our school’s environmental education program and I’ve learned that I had that point wrong.  The bud forms slowly in the year before it blossoms.  It spends the good growing days using the plant’s resources to build the leaves that will appear next year.  It’s not a miracle, or maybe not a sudden miracle:  it’s slow growth under the surface.  The plant doesn’t have to spring into action when the weather is most in doubt and turn itself beautiful.  It just had to do a little bit at a time when light and food and water were plentiful, and then sit tight and wait through the hard times.

And when the sun is good and strong get out there and stretch and reach and grow.  And, if you’re in my family, get out there and forage for what you can freely find – like the dandelions just after they burst bright and yellow into the spring.

Dandelion Fritters
Serves 2

  • 2 cups of dandelion flowers, rinsed gently but thoroughly (make sure to pick them where the dogs haven’t been and nothing has been sprayed on them)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour (I used chick pea flour, but just about anything would be fine)
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. black pepper

Whisk together eggs, flour, salt and pepper until smooth and free of lumps, then beat in the dandelions.

Heat up 2 T. butter in a medium skillet until bubbling and fragrant, then pour in dandelion-egg mixture.  Cook for 3-4 minutes or until firmly set on bottom, then flip and cook 2-3 minutes more.  Serve immediately.  It’s nice with a salad, and a little hot sauce won’t hurt a thing.

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Fan-freaking-tastic Faux Eggplant Parmigiana 4

Posted on April 27, 2011 by crankycheryl

I needed something delicious, vegan and gluten free to bring as the alternate entree for a dinner at our church recently, and I scored some very slightly roughed up eggplants for a good price at our co-op and off I went with this.  It’s got a couple of steps, but the results are seriously great.  Isn’t it nice when your friends are chasing you down for a recipe for something you’ve brought?  Sure, and here it is.

Won’t Miss What Isn’t In It Eggplant Parmigiana
Adapted from Barbara Kafka’s Vegetable Love
Serves 4

Preheat the oven to 500 (yes 500).

1.  Slice lengthwise into 1/4″ thick slices:

  • 1 eggplant

Soak in well-salted water for 1/2 hour.

2.  Put a metal (no plastic at all) rack on a baking sheet and put them in the oven to preheat as well.  Once the oven is hot, drain the eggplant, pat it dry, brush generously with:

  • olive oil, about 1/4 c. in all

Put slices on the rack and roast for 20-25 minutes, turning once.  When done, the skin will be a bit crisped and the flesh will be soft and tender and not feel as spongy as it did starting out.  Remove from oven and place aside.  Turn oven down to 375.

3. Generously oil an 8″x8″ baking dish and set aside.

4.  Puree together in a blender or food processor or whatever your favorite such device is:

  • 1 lb. package extra firm tofu (get organic so you can avoid Frankensoy, ok?)
  • 1 T. fresh basil leaves
  • 1 t. chopped garlic
  • 1/2 t. salt

5.  Measure and place aside:

  • 1 1/2 c. homemade or storebought tomato sauce.

6.  Spread 1/4 c. of the sauce on the bottom of the pan, then top with eggplant slices just to cover the pan.  Spoon a total of about 1/3 c. tofu mixture on the eggplant, then top with another 1/4 c. tomato sauce.  Repeat with eggplant and tofu once more, then combine remaining tomato sauce and tofu and pour over the top.  Bake for about 25 minutes, let cool just a little and serve.

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Apricot-Coconut Macaroons (with sugar or not) 1

Posted on April 21, 2011 by crankycheryl

 

I don’t seem to have landed any seder invitations this year, but I still want a taste of Passover.  When she was alive, my grandma Ruth would buy boxes of matzo that we’d eat with margarine, along with little almond macaroons out of the can and jars of Manischewitz gefilte fish.

For better or worse, that’s what Passover tastes like to me.  We weren’t religious at all so there was never a seder – just a trip to my grandmother’s pantry and companionable snack at her kitchen table.

But now I don’t want processed foods so much, and I’m not having flour and sugar.   Still, I wanted something Passover-ish, and these occurred to me.  They just couldn’t be easier (just make sure to soak those apricots ahead) and they’re really good.  If, like me, you’re off sugar, make them with the unsweetened coconut for a treat that’s fruity but barely sweet.  And if you’re a normal sort of eater, go ahead and use the sweetened coconut.  Yum.

Apricot-Coconut Macaroons
Makes about 20

1.  For at least 2 hours or overnight, soak in just enough warm water to cover:

  • 1 c. dried apricots

When very soft, puree with just enough of the soaking liquid to allow it to process into a smooth paste.

2.  Preheat oven to 325.  Oil a baking sheet or cover with parchment and set aside.

3.  Beat until stiff and dry in a medium bowl:

  • 2 egg whites

4.  Add to the egg whites and combine well:

  • 2 1/2 c. unsweetened (or sweetened) shredded coconut
  • 1 c. of the apricot puree
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • (pinch of cardamom, ginger, cinnamon or dried orange peel: optional)

The mix will be thick and fairly chunky.  Just make sure the ingredients are well incorporated.

5.  Form into small balls and then flatten one side.  Place on the baking sheet a couple of inches apart (they don’t need room to spread, but you do want good air flow between them so they can cook evenly and brown well).  Bake for about 25 minutes, or until fragrant and golden.  Let cool and eat.

They’ll keep for 3 or 4 days at room temperature, and freeze well too.

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Homemade Chocolate Syrup 1

Posted on April 09, 2011 by crankycheryl

E. & Z. regard chocolate milk as a birthright.  And I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that the big old standard Hershey’s bottle has been the only way that high fructose corn syrup has entered our house for several years.  Given the cost of the organic stuff, and the daily habit of consumption, I rationalized.  Having read the label, I also concluded that emulsifiers and sweet syrups were probably necessary to get something that would mix with milk in a satisfying way.

But then we ran out a couple of weeks ago, and I thought I’d see what I could find for a recipe.   I was delighted to find this one over on Serious Eats, albeit further embarrassed to find out how easy it was to make with the simplest of ingredients.

Naturally, I’m a convert to the homemade kind and I hope you’ll give it a try to in the name of thrifty, homemade, kid-friendly deliciousness.

 

Homemade Chocolate Syrup
Reprinted from Serious Eats

Makes about 2 1/2 c.

1. Whisk together in a heavy saucepan:

  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

2.  Heat to medium and slowly add in:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla

Keep whisking until thick and well combined.  Stir by generous tablespoons into your favorite milk and enjoy.  Store in the fridge for use as needed.

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In Praise of Maple 3

Posted on March 27, 2011 by crankycheryl

We would go to the Dakin Farm pancake breakfast every year.  Before we were married, before we had kids, while pregnant, with babes in arms, we went.  Being a city-dwelling transplant to Vermont, I loved to get that close to the making of the year’s maple syrup.  I love how Dakin has tables splayed all over the store and you just sit next to the folks who live up the road, or the mayor, or the group who just came over after church.

 

I love how the family members and staff are there year after year.  How someone from the Cuttings family seems to be within a few feet of the big evaporator at all times.  I love walking in and seeing that the girls are bigger, that the nice guy who pours those huge perfect pancakes on the griddle is there again, ready to ladle molten butter all over whatever’s on your plate.

And I like how things have changed too, but not too much.  Now they offer fresh fruit.  And have an official price for vegetarians since they’re skipping all that piggy goodness.  I like that they have this new line of well-priced pizzas and chili and are branching out while still churning out the syrup and bacon that put them on the proverbial food map.

This year we sat in our usual place in the back shipping room.  Friends crowded in and so I stood and perched and got to survey the filled tables.  To our left was a grown daughter with her mom and dad, mom in a wheelchair and needing to be fed, clearly in the grip of dementia and being loved so tenderly by her husband and daughter who offered up syrupy bites.  The big group of Asian tourists with a new baby in the midst, looking around and smiling at it all.  Groups of students from our local colleges, piling on the all-you-can-eat fare.  A single dad looking like he’s barely keeping things together, but there they are, syrup dripping down their snowsuits and all.   Z. walked up and looked around with me and said, “Wow.”  Everyone comes to pancake breakfast.  “Poor lady in a wheelchair,” he said.  “It’s all right,” I told him, “she can still come to Dakin because she has people who love her.”

I think it’s Dakin where the boys learned the social graces of free samples, and was where they maybe learned that even though their parents divorced, life might not be too bad if everyone can sit together a table covered with a red and white plastic checked tablecloth and pass the syrup and talk about the day.

And I love this annual meandering day that takes us back up Route 7 to stop at Shelburne Farms, where the lambs seem to be popping out of ewes every time someone turns around.  The air is bitter cold still, but we’re here with the farm babies and we know that spring really can’t be too far.  Can it?

And the day was made better by not getting spit on by Freckles the guard llama as I did last year.  Plus I had the bonus of being able to tell the story to everyone who was gathered around, and feel very farm-savvy by telling them to GET BACK when his ears lay against his head.

We talked and we played and the kids chased chickens and climbed big melting, dirty piles of snow.   And we pondered the weird contradiction of adoring these new little animals who may be on our plates later this year, and felt good knowing we could be back in the same place, with the same conversation, next year.

Staging your own maple celebration?  Here are a few favorite recipes from previous posts:

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Vermont Mulligatawny 1

Posted on March 25, 2011 by crankycheryl

I’ve had a cold for a week and all I want is soup.  Spicy soup, especially.  And the other day a can of coconut milk jumped out of the cupboard (probably literally, as you know if you’ve ever seen how I cram things in there) at me, and I had some chicken breast left over from a roast chicken (I always do, since I really don’t like white meat), and before I knew it, mulligatawny was on its way.

You know mulligatawny, right?  It’s the creamy curried soup with chicken and usually rice.  In this case, I had root vegetables about and used those instead; it was a nice change from the other ways we’ve been eating them all winter long.

And the soup was just right for this cold-riddled time of year: creamy, spicy, hearty and great for warming you up from the inside out.  Even our visiting 5-year old neighbor agreed … while E. & Z. were eating frozen Costco pizza and staring at him in a sort of confused surprise.

A couple of cooking notes:

  • I started with cooked leftover chicken, but if yours isn’t cooked, cut it into pieces and brown it well in the first step, removing it before you add the vegetables, and then returning it to the pot to finish cooking in step 4.
  • Go ahead and substitute in other vegetables if you like, but make sure they’re mostly of the mild and savory variety for best flavor.

Vermont Mulligatawny
Serves 3-4

1.  In a big pot, heat until rippling:

  • 3 T. mild oil (I had some palm oil around, which I used for the flavor.  This would also be a good place to use up any ghee or coconut oil you may have.)

Add:

  • 2 carrots, cut into small-ish dice
  • 1 celery root, peeled and cut into small-ish dice
  • 2 potatoes, cut into small-ish dice
  • 1 onion, cut into small-ish dice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • one 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced (I was out and added 1 T. ground ginger instead)

3.  Stir, then add to it:

  • 1 T. curry powder

Which is what I totally would have done if I had had it.  Fortunately I had a lot of interesting bits of spices and seeds and things around and got out my awesome molcajete and ground it up instead, using approximately:

  • 1 small dried hot pepper
  • 1 t. cumin seeds
  • 1 t. turmeric
  • 1/2 t. coriander seeds
  • 1 cardamom pod

4.   Add 2 T. water, then cook the vegetable and curry mix over medium-low heat, covered, for 20-30 minutes, or until vegetables are easily pierced with a fork.

5.  Add to the pot:

  • 2 c. cooked chicken, cut into pieces about the same size as the vegetables
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 4 c. chicken stock (or vegetable stock, or water if you must)

Stir well, bring to a boil, then add:

  • 1 – 1 1/2 c. unsweetened coconut milk (if you’re calorie-careful you can use the light version of this)

Stir it some more.

6.  Ladle into bowls and serve, with fresh cilantro, or apple slices, or lemon wedges, if you like.  We had none of these and were just fine.

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Great Cheap Lemon Dip 1

Posted on March 18, 2011 by crankycheryl

I’ve got this great post about a Vermont local-style mulligatawny that’s all ready to go, but CrankyGreg just made me feel bad.    He tells me I’ve been holding out on you, because I haven’t been telling the whole story of how we eat so well on our tight little budget, and that that’s what makes our food life actually interesting.

Actually he said something more like, “This is great, and this is the kind of thing you should be blogging about, babe.”  I’ll do better at sharing tips and strategies for how we do it.   But he’s anyway right.  Now let me start to make it up to you with this recipe that typifies my low rent-great food approach to shopping and eating.

You know that we’re passionate holders of a CSA membership, and because of that I don’t tend to eat vegetables besides those that we pick up down at the farm … unless they’re in the reduced bin at the co-op.  And if they’re cheap enough they are totally fair game.  There’s a special sort of sanctity that drapes over things once they’ve been remaindered, however inappropriate they might have been before.  Out of season organic asparagus for half-off?  Yes please.

Of course I love to eat locally grown good Vermont food for all the usual reasons.  But I guiltlessly supplement it with more exotic flavors and additions from afar that I tend to pick up cheap at our excellent local outlets.  Which is how I ended up with this very curious and delicious lemon-pumpkin seed-turmeric goo in a pouch for just 50 cents.

Fabulous Lemon Dip with Roasted Asparagus
Serves about 4 people as a light appetizer

1.  Make the asparagus:

Preheat oven to 400.

Snap tough ends off the bottom of:

  • 1 bunch of washed asparagus spears

Toss spears with:

  • 2 T. olive oil

Then place on baking pan, sprinkle with salt, and roast for about 20 minutes – until bright green and just getting tender.  Place aside and let cool to room temperature.

(I also had a couple of carrots around as well as some Jerusalem artichoke I had also gotten out of the cheap bin at our co-op, and I sliced those into dipping-sized pieces and put them aside as well.)

2.  Make the dip by whisking together:

  • 1 c. low fat plain yogurt (hey BTV friends – do you know you can get a quart of plain organic yogurt at Cheese Trader’s for $1.99?)
  • 2 T. heavy cream
  • 2 T. of this lemon confit sauce, or substitute 1 T. olive oil, 1 T.  lemon juice, 1/2 t. turmeric, 1/4 t. salt

Then we brought it over to our neighbor’s for dinner, where E. &  Z. staged a home invasion and attempted to appropriate all of the available toys, and the moms sat in the kitchen with vegetables to dip and a glass of wine.  I ended up liking this so much that I went back and bought two more packets of the lemon sauce for the freezer.   With spring and summer vegetables and salads right around the corner,  I know I’ll be using them up.

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Make Marmalade in March 3

Posted on March 12, 2011 by crankycheryl

It’s March and the birds are singing like it’s spring.  I don’t know if it’s a lion or a lamb, but our colossal snow fall is now running down the streets in rivers of rain water.

 

Things just seem to becoming more and more, I don’t know, richer, deeper, entwined.  Now a dear friend’s daughter is coming to spend a night with us every week since her family’s having a hard time.  E. is in the school play, along with children with people I knew 20 years ago when I was young and crazy and looking at them across the school gym is just like looking across a dark club at them and I’m wondering if I still find them intimidating.   At church, Z.’s class is making soup to share with hungry neighbors so we’ve got beans on the stove to add to tomorrow’s soup pot.   My heart catches, twisting as I watch the kids coming into their own lives, laughing, earnest and wild.

 

And it’s March, it’s my father’s birthday month and it’s peak citrus season.  He loves marmalade and so I made him a big batch for his birthday.  Marmalade always feels like a special success when it works.  Whereas a berry jam has some body, marmalade is really just sugar with juice and peel so it really has to set up just on the basis of getting it to the right temperature.  I find this usually takes a bit longer than recipes indicate – if you go ahead and make it, just make sure you’ve got the hands-on time it needs.

Orange-Grapefruit Marmalade
6 1-cup jars
Adapted from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

1.  With a sharp paring knife, remove the zest from:

  • 3 lbs. mixed organic oranges and grapefruit.

Far be it from me to question the canning gods over at Ball, but I found their instructions to score the fruit into quarters, remove the peel a quarter at a time and then use a paring knife to scrape out the bitter pith unworkable.  So I pulled out this and used it instead:

You can also do this with any vegetable peeler as long as you’re careful to leave as much of the white pith behind as you can.

2.  Set the fruit aside and place peel in a stainless steel saucepan with enough water to cover generously.  Bring to a boil and boil gently for 10 minutes.  Drain off the water, cover again and repeat, until peel is softened.

3.  Over a saucepan or bowl to catch juice, use a sharp paring knife to remove the pith from the fruit, and then separate the segments from the tougher membrane.  Put the fruit into the saucepan and squeeze the membrane to make sure all the juice is in.  Toss out seeds and pith (but if you have a use for them please let me know).

4.  To the saucepan with segments add:

  • the cooked peel
  • 4 cups of water

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.  Reduce the heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until peel is very soft, about 30 minutes.

Remove from heat and measure 6 cups, adding water if necessary to reach that amount.

5.  Prepare your canner, jars, and lids.

6.  Ladle 3 cups of the cooked mixture into a deep stainless steel saucepan.  Ladle remaining mixture into a second saucepan.  Bring both to a boil over medium-high heat.  Keeping it at a boil, slowly stir:

  • 3 cups sugar

into each pan.  Boil hard, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches the gel stage.  Remove from heat to test, and then keep cooking if necessary (My recipe said it would take 12 minutes, but it took 45.  Here’s how to test.)  Once you’ve gotten there, skim off the foam.

7.  Ladle hot marmalade into jars, leaving 1/4″ head space.  Remove the air bubbles by poking down the side with a chopstick, and add more marmalade if necessary to get the proper amount of headspace.  Wipe rim, center lid on jar, and screw the band on without overtightening.

 

8.  Place jars in canner so that they’re completely covered with water.  Bring to a boil, cover and process for 10 minutes.  Remove the canner lid, wait 5 minutes, then remove jars to cool and listen for that satisfying little pop that means the jar has successfully sealed.  (If it doesn’t, just keep it in your fridge and eat up in the next couple of weeks.)

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Blessed Silence Sunday: How 5-year olds Play Backgammon 0

Posted on February 20, 2011 by crankycheryl

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Adorable Empanadas, or How I Scored a Princess Bat 3

Posted on February 19, 2011 by crankycheryl

Z.’s kindergarten teacher saw that I was making empanadas on a Facebook post, and asked if I might come in and do them with the class.  They were wrapping up their five-senses unit, and a hands-on cooking activity seemed a fun way to use those senses.

If you’re not familiar with them, empanadas are little turnovers popular in South America and parts of the Caribbean.  The crust is flaky like a pie crust, though just a bit more doughy.  Often filled with spiced ground meat, they can also contain vegetables, beans, even sweet fruit fillings (think portable pie).  I let Z. pick the flavor (potato and cheese) and started the planning.

The constraints were time and food safety, and the desire to give them a good product that they could succeed at while feeling proud of.   (If you’ve ever cooked with a group of kids you know that they can feel cheated if they don’t have something substantial to do in the creation of the food.)

The solution was to prepare the filling and crust ahead of time, and to leave out the raw eggs or anything that could be dangerous if a kid found himself sampling the ingredients raw.   Easy.  So, with my bag full of dough and filling, I arrived for the activity, we talked about how we use our senses to see the food we’re making, and listen to its crunch or sizzle, and smell its delicious smells.  Then we washed hands thoroughly (I’ve seen what these people do with those hands) and off we went.

Potato & Cheese Empanadas
About 20 turnovers

The Filling

Mix together thoroughly:

  • 4 c. leftover mashed potatoes
  • 1 c. shredded cheddar
  • 1/2 c. butternut squash puree (totally optional, but I have a reputation to maintain)
  • 3/4 t. salt

Set aside.

The crust

1.  Place in a large bowl or food processor:

  • 6 c. all purpose flour
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 2 t. salt

Stir or pulse until combined, then add:

Pulse or mix until mixture looks like coarse crumbs.  Drizzle over the top:

  • about 1 1/4 c. water

Pulse just a few times or mix gently with fork until dough is just dampened enough to gather into a ball.

2.  Divide into ~20 flat disks, each with a piece of parchment or wax paper between them.  Refrigerate for an hour, or until you’re ready to proceed.  N.B. – If you do make this ahead of time, make sure you give the dough an hour at room temperature to get it to a workable consistency before proceeding.

Construction

1.  Preheat oven to 400.

2.  Take each disk one at a time, and roll it or press it into a circle.  In our class we distributed a piece of parchment to each kid, which is worth bringing in if your fabulous teacher doesn’t have it right at hand.

Press the dough (or help the kids press the dough) into a circle.  The shape doesn’t matter terribly, but it should at least have even edges and be symmetrical so it will fold over and seal neatly in an upcoming step.

3.  Take a rounded tablespoon of the filling, and put it just below the center of the circle.  Kids will need help with this as they’ll be likely to put too much filling on for it to close up properly.  How you deal with that is up to you – it’s not a bad idea to let kids learn some food science by seeing what happens when they make different cooking choices.  On the other hand, it’s nice to let everyone succeed in a class setting.

4.  Fold over the dough from top to bottom and seal by pressing.  If your dough is at all crumbly, dipping your finger in water and running it along the edge can help the edges sort of glue together.  Use a fork to crimp the edges, and then place each on an ungreased baking sheet until they’re all completed.

5.  Poke each with a fork two or three times.  Then give them an egg wash by beating

  • an egg or two with a little milk or water and then brushing on the top.

Then we had to run, run, run our empanadas to the kitchen to have them baked before pizzas went in the oven for Pizza Day.  You don’t mess with Pizza Day.

5.  Bake for about 15 minutes, until nicely browned.  Let cool for a few minutes (or the amount of time it takes to run back up the hall to your classroom) and then cut in half and eat.

What we found was that about half the kids were willing to try them, and most of those loved them.  Z. was too conflicted by the warring emotions associated with having me in the classroom and just couldn’t manage eating a new food too.  But one of his friends especially loved them, and that’s how I got my very own Princess Bat.

Swoon.

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    Cheryl Herrick's brave Vermont quest to bring together food-love and mom-life. All original content (written, graphical, recipes or other), unless otherwise noted, is © and/or TM Cheryl Herrick. All rights reserved by the author. Want to reprint a recipe? Just get in touch and ask.

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