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

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Snow Day Popcorn for Grownups 0

Posted on December 11, 2010 by crankycheryl

Ever since Danielle and I were kids playing in the snow tunnels outside her apartment building, snow days have meant popcorn and hot chocolate.   It’s a tradition I’ve been happy to continue with E. & Z., who have come to expect it as a birthright if they have even the briefest contact with cold and snow.

“Mommy, I walked from the car to the house.  I’m ready for my popcorn and hot chocolate now.”

This week, it must be said, they earned their winter warm-up.  They spent hours outside on those two inches of snow, sledding and flopping around and rolling up and down hills.  And when I made the popcorn, I put a couple of cups aside for a spicy and satisfying winter snack for the grownups too.


Maybe you know that pepitas pop and toast beautifully and they make a great combination with the corn, adding a little nutty flavored protein to the mix.  Next time, I’ll probably throw in some dried blueberries or cherries and call it a meal.

I used this particular mix of spices because of the rustic, coarse texture and mild heat of Aleppo pepper, plus the smokiness of smoked paprika.  You can approximate this with sweet paprika, ground chipotle powder, and a sprinkle of crushed pepper flakes if that’s what you’ve got around.

Spicy Popcorn & Pepitas

1.  In a large skillet, war over medium heat just until fragrant:

  • 2 T. butter or olive oil
  • 1-2 cloves chopped garlic

2.  Add and stir:

  • 1/4 c. pumpkin seeds (pepitas).   You can use the green ones that have had the hulls removed, or the ones you’ve scooped out of your own pumpkin or squash.  If you choose the latter, just dry and toast them first.’
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. smoked paprika
  • 1/2 (or to taste) Aleppo pepper

Cook for 2-3 minutes, then stir and repeat to coat and toast the seeds.

3.  Add:

  • 2-3 cups popped popcorn.

Stir well and serve.

The Chickens 4

Posted on July 23, 2010 by crankycheryl

I’ve been meaning to take a minute to write about the chickens.

It’s just that I don’t exactly know what to say.

In the winter, my amazing friend Paula wondered if we might want to invest in a small flock of meat-birds she was preparing to raise on her family’s farm.  The plan was that we’d come out and help with some of the care and feeding, and then eventually help with the slaughter.   We wanted in.  Of course I was nervous about the slaughter part.

So then spring came and her little peeps arrived.  She moved them out to her barn, and Z. & I went out to visit.  We met the meat-birds, who Paula got me in the habit of calling “lummoxes” as they’re bred for quick growth, big size, and not especially for smarts.  (You chicken-knowers may detect some ornamentals in the bunch.  Don’t worry – they’re being raised to show at the fair this year, not for meat.)

We helped fill their water and mix in the oyster shell with grain, helped shoo the layers where they were supposed to go.

And then I went out one more time and did some more of the same; of course Paula’s been going out every day.  And now all of a sudden tomorrow is chicken slaughter day.  We’re not doing it ourselves, but are instead packing up the birds and caravaning to Morrisville where there’s a butcher who will slaughter, dress and pack the birds for us.  We go back a few hours later and pick them up, all ready to go into the freezer.

I’ve talked to the boys extensively about this venture, about how animals should be treated well even if they’re going to be eaten.  How we as a family try to make sure that the animals we eat had good lives and were treated well, and that getting to know our food is part of that.

I would have thought that Z., who is younger and so very sweet, would have been especially traumatized.  But it’s his brother who’s taking it hard, refusing to go along for the trip.  And who has announced that he won’t even look at the birds if he has to be in the car with them.  I think Z. is okay because he knows we’ll be going to Applecheek Farm and Bee’s Knees and he probably suspects there will be juice boxes and treats involved.  He’s definitely right.

I’m looking at that picture of the bird in the grass, thinking about how right now as I’m listening to the crickets chirp it’s having its last night as a living being.  If I’m going to keep eating animals, I have to be okay with that.  Am I?  It’s hard to say for sure.  I’d like to be able to smugly congratulate myself, knowing that my freezer’s about to be filled with animals who lived a good and dignified life, and weren’t treated horribly and then stuck in a warehouse freezer.  I know this is better.  And I know that this ambiguity is appropriate.

And now I just hope we get through tomorrow.

Kimchi 11

Posted on March 02, 2010 by crankycheryl

[3/15 – Give-away update: Z. picked Kristen!  We’ll arrange for the transfer.  Then he also picked Jeannie, which wasn’t really a plan but I’ll come up with something good.  Thanks for entering, everyone.]

Though I don’t have a winter CSA, I do know enough generous people who do that I find myself occasionally over-run with winter vegetables.

It’s hard to call this a problem, but the presence of two entire Napa cabbages did require some sort of plan.  And since we’re down to two jars of last summer’s pickles, kimchi seemed to make sense.

First, if you have any interest in Korean food, you must immediately go and visit Maangchi’s site.    She is so adorable and is a one-woman empire of amazing food over there in her virtual kingdom.  Plus she has a hot pink wig.

I was fascinated by her instructions, but actually followed this recipe.  Both start with brining the cabbage for 12 hours, and then straining it.  (Hey look – midway through the brining I got an email that my camera had turned up at the Y!  Yay!  Cabbage pictures!)

Then I made the spice mix, and mixed it in with the drained cabbage.  I so wish I had checked for paprika on hand so I could have tempered the heat to mimic the much milder Korean pepper that’s usually used for this.  I consoled myself that the jar of cayenne I pulled out was at least 4 years old … but the mix was still pretty darn hot.

Then,  because I had made something like a triple batch, I packed it into two 1/2 gallon jars, topped it with the reserved brine, and then used brine-filled freezer bags as tops.

Now they’re off to the basement to lurk in a cool corner for 3 – 6 days before it’ll be decanted into smaller jars.  Actually, I know that it will be precisely 4 days, since that’s when we’ll be back from our quick trip to NYC and I’m sure I’ll be dying to test it as soon as we walk in the door.

Want to try it too?  Leave a comment here on the blog (or on Facebook Networked Blogs) if you’re here in Burlington, and I’ll pick someone at random to give one to on, oh, March 15.

Blessed Silence Sunday: Plums 0

Posted on September 27, 2009 by crankycheryl

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The quiet throngs around Plum Hill Farm’s stand at the Burlington Farmer’s Market.  Next week is the last one for their amazing fresh plums this year.

Brain Hurts, Mouth is Happy: Day 5 of Localvore Challenge 5

Posted on September 23, 2009 by crankycheryl

[originally posted at EatLocalVT.com]

Well, “brain hurts” seems crazy on a day that includes this apple galette from August First (local flour from a Quebec miller and Canadian farmers, local Pippin apples).

But you know, it’s true.  And while eating this most excellent pastry was a ridiculously wonderful experience for the senses, there were worries like this:

“There are almonds in here.  They make it delicious.  I’m not supposed to be eating almonds this week.  What kind of phony faker am I?  Ooh, that was a good bite.  Oh hell.  I’m no good for this.  But the apples and flour are local and Jodi and Phil sure are doing what they can to support local farmers and businesses.  Mmmm.  I really love almonds.  How did my galette disappear already?”

There’s so much good food in Vermont, and such an incredible community of people who produce it.  Who can help wanting to be part of the localvore movement?  But I’m finding that trying to adhere to a strict dogma about it is just making me crabby.

I don’t want to be crabby.  I want to cook great food for the people I love, and I want as much of it as possible to come from people around me.  I want my food choices to reflect my caring for people near and far, and for this beautiful place we live.

Yesterday I had this wonderful moment.  I was out in the garden picking tomatoes to have on our pasta, walking past the giant yellow marigolds still going crazy out there.  Every flower seemed to have an ecstatic bumblebee in it, wiggling and searching for nectar and just dancing there in the late afternoon sun.   I want to be that, I thought, that pure and that present, right here and now, up to my elbows in all the bounty that Vermont can provide.  Not quibbling with myself over an almond or two when there’s so much to dig in to.

A Localvore Nod to National Butterscotch Pudding Day 1

Posted on September 19, 2009 by crankycheryl

With incredible good fortune and nearly incalculable odds, National Butterscotch Pudding Day and the EatLocalVT challenge have converged.   How better to celebrate than to make a Vermont version of this homey and comforting dessert, no?

Just do be sure to use everything local you can get your hands on, if you please.

This version is adapted from David Leibowitz, who melted my heart with this intro on his original post:

One decision I refuse to let you make is to be one of those people that wants to press plastic wrap on top of the puddings to avoid that delicious, chewy skin that forms on top.

If you don’t like pudding skin, why are you eating pudding in the first place? That’s the best part and you don’t want to be in the category of a big loser.

Now, do you?

Awesome.

Maple Butterscotch Pudding
Serves 4-6

  • 4 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • 1 c. maple sugar, maple syrup, or brown sugar if you must
  • 3/4 t. kosher salt
  • 3 T. cornstarch
  • 2½ c. whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons whiskey (optional, and I’m thinking about that apple brandy I hear that Shelburne Orchards has in its still once it’s ready)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Whipped cream for serving.

1. Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan. Add maple sugar and salt, then stir until the sugar is well-moistened. Remove from heat.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch with about 1/4 cup of the milk until smooth (there should be no visible pills of cornstarch), then whisk in the eggs.

3. Gradually pour the remaining milk into the melted maple sugar, whisking constantly, then whisk in the cornstarch mixture as well.

4. Return the pan to the heat and bring the mixture to a boil, whisking frequently. Once it begins to bubble, reduce the heat to a low simmer and continue to cook for one minute, whisking non-stop, until the pudding thickens to the consistency of hot fudge sauce.

5. Remove from heat and stir in the whiskey (if using) and vanilla. If slightly-curdled looking, blend as indicated above.

6. Pour into 4-6 serving glasses or custard cups and chill thoroughly, at least four hours, before serving.  Top with whipped cream, if you like.

Photo from MyBakingHeart, Creative Commons license.

Green Mountain Salad Nicoise with Maple-Brined Chicken 0

Posted on September 17, 2009 by crankycheryl

0909091735(2)So we’re reading Charlotte’s Web and tonight I got to read this aloud while trying to maintain composure, thank you very much E.B. White:

… The sheds and buildings are empty and forlorn.  The infield was littered with bottles and trash.  Nobody, of all the hundreds of people who had visited the Fair, knew that a grey spider had played the most important part of all.  No one was with her when she died.

What the hell?  That’s a chapter ending?  Like, “Night, night babies, give Mommy a smooch!  That’s right, the story’s hero died alone in a g.d. abandoned fairground!  Well, good night!”

Good gravy.  I was trying to gently introduce my kids to the circle of life, not send them into an existentialist depression.

Then, after some quality time with a few tissues and a review of my belief system, I hustled downstairs to get to work.  This Saturday is the launch of the EatLocalVT 100-mile challenge, and part of my blogging means bringing a signature dish to the potluck kick-off event.  This is a dinner salad I created just for the challenge, involving nearly 100% local ingredients and based on a few Nicoise-inspired salads I’ve had over the years.  There are a few steps, but they’re all simple, and the results are pretty delicious.

Note: The brining process does take 3 1/2 hours, so do get an early start.  If you must, you can skip it.  But try not to because it’s good.

Green Mountain Salad Nicoise with Maple-Brined Chicken (or maple-marinated tofu)
Serves 4

For chicken:

  • 1/4 c. kosher salt
  • 1/4 c. maple syrup
  • 1/2 t. lightly crushed fennel seeds or fresh fennel fronds
  • 1 tray ice cubes
  • 1 c. cold strong coffee
  • 2 c. cold water
  • 4 chicken legs or breast halves, bone in and skin on

Place all the brine ingredients in a bowl or pot large enough to accommodate them plus the chicken, and stir around well with your hand until well-mixed and the salt dissolves.  Add the chicken, then refrigerate for 3 hours.

(If you prefer tofu, take one pound of extra firm tofu, and press it for about an hour.  Marinate it in about 1 cup of vegetable broth, with 2 T. maple syrup, 2 T. coffee, and crushed fennel seeds or fronds, then bake it in a 350 oven for about 25 minutes, turning midway through.)

For the salad:

  • 10 cups salad greens (I used napa cabbage for the version depicted above)
  • 4 medium beets, peeled and cut into 1 1/2″ dice
  • 4 medium potatoes, cut into 1 1/2″ dice (you can peel if you want, but I don’t)
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped into 1″ dice, seeded if you prefer
  • 1/2 c. olive or safflower oil
  • 4 c. green beans, ends trimmed
  • 4 hardboiled eggs, cooled and peeled and cut into half lengthwise
  • Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Rinse and dry the salad greens and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 400.
  3. Toss the potatoes with a generous dollop of the oil and place on an oiled baking sheet.
  4. Repeat with the beets, keeping each vegetable in its own area.
  5. Sprinkle with salt and bake for 20 minutes.
  6. Remove tray from oven, turn over with a spatula, and slide down to make room for green beans.
  7. Toss the green beans with a bit of oil and then roast them for 15 minutes.
  8. Remove vegetables from oven and let cool.

Dressing:

Whisk together until completely blended:

  • 1/2 c. olive or safflower oil
  • 2 T. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 T. maple syrup
  • 1 T. Dijon mustard (optional)
  • 1/4 t. kosher salt

Finish the chicken:

  1. Remove from brine and pat dry.
  2. Place on oiled baking sheet and bake in preheated 400 oven for 30 minutes or until juices run clear when the thickest part of the flesh is poked with a knife.
  3. Remove from oven and let rest for a few minutes while you:

Compose the salad

Place the salad greens on each of four plates.  Arrange beets, potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, and eggs however you like them.  Add the chicken (or tofu), drizzle with dressing and enjoy.

Last Minute Labor Day from eatlocalvt.com 0

Posted on September 07, 2009 by crankycheryl

Originally posted at eatlocalvt.com, where I’m blogging about feeding a family with affordable, kid-friendly local food for City Market.

I’m offering up a few links to some family-friendly, Labor Day-ish recipes from Vermont food blogs that make good use of local flavors.

You’ll see that some of these ingredients are not available locally, like lime and balsamic vinegar and pineapple.  Which brings me to something I’ve been thinking a lot about in preparation for the Challenge.

The point of the EatLocalVT challenge is not to feel guilty or deprived.  There will be no 100-mile-zone police showing up at your door to knock a lemon wedge or bottle of olive oil out of your hands during the week.  I know in my house we’d be hard-pressed to go a week without peanut butter or citrus fruits or olive oils.  And I don’t plan to browbeat my young children into compliance.

But I will be using local ingredients in place of their imported counterparts.  When I make my friend Robin’s Pineapple, Watermelon & Feta Salad with Basil, I’ll just be using watermelon.  I’ll hope to find local oats and beans for the veggie burgers.

If you’re seeking to go 100% local, I hope you will!  But in the end what really matters is not what we do in this one week, but what we do the other 51 weeks of the year.  If all of us were to always start by thinking local, eating seasonally, choosing food from our neighbors, we’d be creating the healthier families and communities we all want to be a part of.

So, in the spirit of delicious local eating, here these are:

Watermelon & Feta Salad from Hippo Flambe. As mentioned above, I’ll be leaving out the pineapple (though it was an essential part of Robin’s entry in a recent online food competition).

Homemade Veggie Burgers from howtofeedavegan.com, adapted from Joanna Vaught (These do require a couple of ingredients you may not have around, like vital wheat gluten, so do keep in mind they may require a trip to the store.)

And why not finish up with some Strafford Creamery Smooth Maple ice cream, or Island vanilla?  And then you can happily sit back and enjoy the last of the day’s warmth in this beautiful season of change.

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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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