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

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Good Finds at Cheese Traders 2

Posted on July 26, 2011 by crankycheryl

What is it about a discount that makes us go crazy?   Have you noticed what happens when a price is reduced, how we start thinking,

Well, why isn’t it reduced more?  It’s 20% off?  Who cares?  Why not cheaper?  Why isn’t it free?  Why don’t they just give it to me, plus one for my mom and a free cookie too?  And a pony!  I want a pony!

Seriously, sales make people lose their minds.   And this has led to a sad realization for me, the perennially thrifty mom.  I was forced to notice that I myself have this trait, and it’s especially evident during bargain-hunting trips to Cheese Traders.

If you’re not familiar with them, consider stopping in to check out what interesting finds they’ve got in their cheese cases and on the grocery shelves.  Besides really good prices on many local cheeses (I overheard a staffer saying to another, “We have a very low mark-up on the Vermont cheeses, but tend to have a higher profit on everything else,” which may be true in general but they definitely can have great deals on cheeses and other items from farther away too.  If you’re hunting down the serious bargains, you just need to know general retail prices so you can evaluate the deals for yourself).

I found myself walking by the display of boxes of organic dehydrated mashed potatoes during my visits.  They’re a great secret weapon to have on the shelf, convenient for all sorts of things, especially if you’re a gluten-free cook:  breading for fried or baked chicken or fish or tofu, a thickener for soup or sauces, or even – yes – can just become mashed potatoes for a quick side dish.  Plus they’re organic, and since potatoes grown with modern conventional practices continually earn their place on the “dirty dozen list” of pesticide-contaminated vegetables, organic is the way to go when it comes to spuds.

(By the way: here in Vermont, even the allegedly conventional growers tend to use pretty great practices.  Ask your farmer what treatments they use if they’re not certified organic, as you may well find that they’re practically organic anyway.)

But back to these little pre-fab boxes with 6 or so servings that had been priced at something like a whole dollar each.  Somehow the amount just scrambled my thrift-hungry brain.  So I didn’t buy any again and again, even though they retail for $3.  But guess what?  Now they’re THREE for that dollar, and it’s time to stock up.  No matter how crazy your inner bargain-hunter may be.

So if you’re local and agree with me that this is something that could make a happy home in your pantry, get yourself over there and buy a few.  Oh, and they’ve got a cooler full of organic Liberte Kefir from our Canadian neighbors too.

And if you’re as wacky as I am, we can get together for a big yogurt and potato dinner and boast about the good deal we got on them.

The Chickens, Part 2 8

Posted on July 25, 2010 by crankycheryl

There are no pictures or descriptions of animals actually being killed in this post.  But I’ll tell you the rest of what happened when we brought the chickens from Paula’s Williston farm to the slaughterhouse in Morrisville.

The boys and I got an early morning start, but arrived at Paula’s a little late, and the round-up was underway.  Paula’s daughter and her friend were shooing the chickens towards the adults, who were putting them 2 or 3 to a box and the boxes in the cars.

I was not good at herding chickens, but did show a quick aptitude for finding stinging nettles while trying to coax the birds in the right direction.  The boys were hanging out with Ventura the turkey (his day had not yet come), and the beautiful egg-laying birds, but kind of got into the spirit of laughing and getting these flappy big monsters into boxes.   The birds were 8 or 10 weeks old (the two batches were in their pasture together), and enormous, looking too heavy for their legs and kind of thumping from side to side as they ran.   As I was tucking them into their boxes all I could picture was me on the interstate with huge angry roosters flapping around my head, boys crying and trying to escape.

At last we were packed and off we went.  The birds occasionally made some inquisitive noises.  Z. said, “Don’t worry – nothing bad is going to happen little birdie,” to which E. replied, “They’re on their way to BE KILLED!  Something VERY bad is going to happen!”  His brother shushed him and told him not to say that because it would scare the birds and that wasn’t nice.

We arrived at Morrisville’s Winding Brook Farm, which I’d always been curious about as I see their meat on lots of local menus.   We pulled in to the small parking lot in front of their barn, and spotted the Ag. Dept.’s mobile slaughterhouse, a regulation-looking white trailer with the door open and a guy with a long rubber apron moving around inside.    The plan had been to drop off the birds, but instead we stayed to help, and before I knew it Paula was handing the birds in one at a time.

E. & Z. found a place they could bounce on a big piece of wood, and visited the guinea fowl and calves.  There was another family there, who we started talking to.  They were waiting for a goat they had purchased to be processed, and the little girl who was with them joined our group’s kids.  The girls gathered around Paula and petted and kissed each chicken as it was handed over.

While we were there, all sorts of people were coming and going.  Men in button-down shirts stopped in to talk for a minute; I assumed they were managers or buyers for local restaurant accounts.  Then another family came in, three men and a young-ish girl, speaking an Eastern European language.  One of the men pulled out a whetstone and long knife and started sharpening it.  I asked if they did their own butchering, maybe for halal meat, which they said that they did.  The knife-sharpener said they were there for a lamb, and asked if I could help by holding its legs since his friends refused to.   (I pondered whether I could, decided I probably would so as not to be a hypocrite of a meat-eater, but we left before it was an option.)

After the last bird had been handed in, we followed the kids around on a tour of the farm, cooing at goats and piglets and peacocks and all sorts of farm critters.


We left for a few hours, visiting some of my favorite Lamoille County food spots – Bee’s Knees, Applecheek Farm, and Elmore Roots Nursery (which was closed, but I spotted several things of interest, including native ginger).

Then it was back to the farm to pick up our processed birds.  The butchers gave Paula a big vacuum pack of necks, one of hearts, and then started handing us the vacu-packed chickens.  It cost $172 for butchering 35 birds, including extra ice to chill them to a safe temperature.  (They told us that the price goes up when the weather’s hot.)

And now here are 10 of them in the freezer.  I’ll let you know what I end up doing with them.

Maple-Ginger-Bacon Blondies for the Maple Cook-Off 2

Posted on March 29, 2010 by crankycheryl

UVM decided to host a cook-off to celebrate the launch of their library’s new Maple Research Website and, what the heck – I hadn’t entered any contests since last year so I thought I’d give it a whirl.

The categories were Savory, Sweet & Judges’ Choice, and the criteria were simple: Appearance (25%), Taste (50%), and Use of Maple (25%).  I liked the straight-forwardness, and think it’s a nicely democratic approach that encourages all sorts of folks to participate.  There was music and Island Ice Cream and a cool tasting table set up where you could try your hand at identifying the mineral content of the soil upon which various saps were grown.  (I didn’t try, though I was geekily tantalized by a geological thrust on the terroir of maple syrup – why is Vermont’s product so good?  Maybe it’s because of our dirt’s mineral content.)

The competition was good-natured but serious.  There were around 30 entries, a few from UVM students, from local restaurants and bakers, and from local folks and families.  The mix was a great snapshot of the food-world of Vermont, with beautiful, sculptural entries like individual Maple Cheesecakes with Maple-Caramel Glaze alongside traditional humble fare like Maple Baked Beans and Butternut Cake with Maple Meringue frosting.  My personal favorite was a pork tenderloin with maple-habanero glaze.

I’m sorry I didn’t get more pictures, but you can imagine the stampede when they let guests help themselves after the judges had been through.  Here were some of the entries I was able to snap before we hordes descended with forks.

The music played, the judges sampled, E. & Z. ended up sticky and covered with frosting and finally sat staring into space, unsure how they had been allowed to consume so many sweet treats.  Then the winning entries were announced: Maple Pulled-Pork Sliders, excellent looking wraps with meat and root vegetables called The Beef Explosion (long gone before I could get one), Maple Baked Beans, and Maple Bars (didn’t get one of these either).

It was an opportunity to teach the boys about how to act when we lose.  After I coached them on applauding and congratulation, Z. told me, “Mommy, when we lose I’m just going to say, ‘phooey,’ quietly like this: phooey.”

Yeah, phooey, but yum.

Maple-Ginger Blondies with Maple Glaze, Nuts & Crispy Bacon

2 dozen

Butter 9 x 13 pan and set aside.

Melt together in a saucepan over low heat, stirring until nicely blended:

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 c. maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 c. brown sugar


Let cool for a few minutes then beat in until well-combined:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/3 c. pumpkin puree


Sift in:

  • 1 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. powdered ginger

Put into prepared pan.  Bake for 25 minutes, then cool on rack completely

In the meantime, prepare the glaze and topping:

Cook until crisp then crumble and place aside:

  • 6 slices thick cut bacon

Very coarsely chop:

  • 1/2 c. maple-roasted or salted nuts

Make glaze. Sift:

  • 2 cups confectioners sugar

Beat in on high speed:

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 T. maple syrup
  • 1 T. milk

Adjust by adding more confectioners sugar, or milk, until thick but pourable. Once blondies have cooled, spread with glaze, top with nuts and bacon and serve.


Green Wraps & Chocolate Guinness Cake for St. Patrick’s Day 0

Posted on March 17, 2010 by crankycheryl

Filed under the category of “Things My Children Ought to Have Liked but Instead Were the Cause of Great Consternation and Caterwauling” are these wraps that were yummy, simple, adorable, healthy, made with nearly all local ingredients, and a fun twist on St. Patrick’s Day. Dangit.

I had meant to make Green Eggs & Ham for Dr. Seuss’s birthday earlier this month but never seemed to have all the ingredients at the same time.  Then fresh spinach arrived from a friend’s CSA share, and off we went.

Green Egg Wraps with Bacon
Makes about 6 wraps

Place in a blender and puree the heck out of:

  • 2 cups of fresh spinach leaves, well washed, stems removed
  • 2 eggs

Pour the egg-spinach mixture into a medium bowl and beat in:

  • 4 eggs
  • salt & pepper to taste

In the meantime, cook:

  • 8 strips of bacon (a couple of extra never hurt)

And warm up:

  • 4 or 6 whole grain wraps

I do both of these in one easy, lazy step by placing the bacon on a rack on a broiler pan that fits in my convection oven and broiling it for 10 or so minutes, until it’s as crispy as we like.  At the same time, I place the wraps on top of the oven.  They end up just warm enough and I’m not fussing with extra dishes or labor.

While the bacon’s going, cook the eggs in a skillet until set.

Into each warm wrap, place:

  • 1 slice of cheese (we used Muenster)
  • 1 piece of bacon
  • a couple scoops of green eggs
  • favorite add-ins: tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, hot sauce, jalapenos, whatever you like.

Then wrap ’em up and serve.

For dessert we made Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Guinness Cake.  It was great, and I even lucked out and found some cream cheese frosting in the freezer to thaw to put on the top.

However, I would note that when a recipe calls for a 9″ springform pan, it really and truly doesn’t mean an 8″ springform pan.  Not that that’s a mistake you would ever make.

Cross-Posting from Red Wagon Plants: The Garden Season Starts 0

Posted on March 16, 2010 by crankycheryl

[I’m excited to be doing some blogging over at Red Wagon Plants’ great site for the season.  I’ll cross-post here so you can read along with this season’s kitchen garden adventures if you like.]

Oh, my garden is perfect in March – all imagined blue blossoms and bursting red tomatoes and lush with shiny leaves.  I can picture it so well in these days before reality has arrived.  But still, I’m excited for the real thing, the dramas and surprises and smells and harvest.  And I’m looking forward to sharing my amateur garden adventures here on the Red Wagon Plants blog this season.

Last week Julie from Red Wagon came over to talk about our plans, and we took a stroll around my Burlington condo, looking at the remnants of last year’s garden that haven’t yet been cleaned and gotten ready for the season.  It isn’t pretty, but there’s all that March imagination – and there was Julie with her excitement and amazing knowledge.

opt-legs-shadow

We talked about my goals, and looked at the space.  Within a general theme of edible landscaping, I want to grow:

  • Beautiful plants that we can enjoy through the season.
  • More of the things I never get enough of through our CSA share (especially tomatoes).
  • Plants that will help with my gift-giving for the holidays.  Last year I made some crazy nasturtium liqueur and I want to do more with cordials from the garden.  Plus I’m aspiring to make hot sauce to share.

I showed Julie my challenging spots – the north-facing edge that faces our neighbors’ units where I grew red-veined sorrel last year (pretty leaves, but unwieldy and inedible).  Julie suggested currants, which will tolerate lots of shade, plus give us flowers and fruit.

opt-north

We looked at the north-east corner where I don’t have anything except one gooseberry bush planted.  Julie wondered about making this shady spot a garden for pollinators – bees, birds and butterflies.  She pulled out her laptop and pulled up a long list of plants that could be in the shade.  We agreed on:

The longest side of my house faces east, which means a short day of direct light.  Last year, I had grown leeks (never got bigger than scallions), chard, kale, and other greens there, along with a big patch of nasturtiums.  After talking about what I wanted, we settled on:

  • Rhubarb (I’ve been interested in rhubarb for a while but because I have young children, I’ve been scared of the leaves that I had always heard were terribly toxic.  Last year I learned that it would take 10 lbs. of leaves to reach actual lethal levels, so I now can relax and allow it in the garden.)
  • Cilantro
  • Parsley
  • Dill
  • Bronze fennel
  • Bulb fennel
  • Chives
  • Chervil
  • Meadow rue

We walked around to the south, where we talked about taking advantage of the heat and light and growing pots of tomatoes and vines along a south-west wall, and putting in a container with:

opt-south-wall

So our plans are big, and the plants are growing.  Can’t wait to get started.

Apple Truckload Saturday 2

Posted on October 17, 2009 by crankycheryl

applepicking 006

Today was Shelburne Orchard‘s Truckload Saturday, and some neighbors and I went to load up – $50 for two carloads of Macs, Galas, Liberty’s, and Empires.  These neighbors, in fact:

applepicking 021

CrankyGreg says we looked like a bunch of hip, radical nuns, which I can live with.  We took our blessed selves and went and scavenged the “falls,” and jostled the last attached ones out of their branches.  And I’m wildly pleased to report that I climbed a tree to chase down some high-hanging Galas.

After a couple of hours we had two cars full of apples and were hungry, so we went up to the Orchard’s store and food area, where we found an enormous apple pie,

applepicking 019and these nice people frying up onion rings made with Ginger Jack in the batter,

applepicking 025

and sausages roasting inside their brick oven.

applepicking 028So now I’ve got 4 bags (about 2 bushels) of apples hanging around.  I’ve taken the first batch and started some Crock Pot Apple Butter.  With the rest, I’d like to can Apple Pie Filling, but can’t seem to find the Clear Jel I’d need.  Maybe more applesauce, maybe something else, whatever it is I’m sure E. & Z. will be tired of it long before it’s gone.

Local, and Good Enough 0

Posted on October 03, 2009 by crankycheryl

Butternut Squash Harvest from Burlington's Intervale Community Farm

I’m still ruminating on the EatLocalVT challenge.   And surprised by how much the whole prospect has made me think.

If you read along with me in recent weeks, you know I had some cynical twinges, some eye-rolling moments when I just wanted to throw in the towel, feeling like I ought to feel guilty because I didn’t do without something or other.

But, while true, there was something more.  Something more spiritual than the tangible goals of supporting  neighbor farmers, of keeping our dollars in the local economy, of reducing the environmental impact of getting our food to us.

I found honesty and depth in eating the food that comes from the very land under our own feet.  There’s a primal connection in eating from places we can walk in and breathe deeply of, in eating food grown by people we know and value.  It feels like real living, to be sustained by what is here and now.

And there’s something else that quietly whispers, “What is around you is enough.”  I’m far from pure, but I see more now how I’m confused by the constant presence of everything all the time.

What do you do with it?  It’s nearly impossible to ask the average person to eat local Vermont food all the time, all year long.  And should we  be asking that?  What about the new book that points to other problems in our food production and distribution system?  What about the cynics who find the whole proposition laughable in thge first place?

To choose to eat and enjoy the things that are from here and now is not to be deprived, but is a celebration of what is real.  And delicious, of course.  I’m closing this quickly so I can run down to the farmer’s market to get as many of the last of the great local plums as we can.  Then I get the boys and we’re off to Pumpkin Day at our CSA, then home for homemade localvore chicken soup, and a doubled-up dessert so I can bring a treat to a neighbor who’s recovering from surgery.

What could be better, in any sense of the word?

Blessed Silence Sunday: Plums 0

Posted on September 27, 2009 by crankycheryl

0926091058

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.

Tantrums, Steve Martin & Homemade Pasta: Midway Thru the Localvore Challenge 4

Posted on September 22, 2009 by crankycheryl

0922091652

[originally posted at EatLocalVT.com]

When people were first telling me about eating local, I liked when I heard about this concept of “wild cards,” which meant that, yes, the food would be essentially what was grown within 100 miles, but that I could make exceptions.  Like coffee.  Olive oil.  Bananas.  Chocolate. Maybe citrus.  Probably spices.

The list kept growing.  I began to get like Navin in The Jerk:

I don’t need anything except this.

[picks up an ashtray]

And that’s it and that’s the only thing I need, is this. I don’t need this or this. Just this ashtray.

And this paddle game, the ashtray and the paddle game and that’s all I need. And this remote control. The ashtray, the paddle game, and the remote control, and that’s all I need. And these matches. The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control and the paddle ball. And this lamp. The ashtray, this paddle game and the remote control and the lamp and that’s all I need. And that’s all I need too. I don’t need one other thing, not one – I need this. The paddle game, and the chair, and the remote control, and the matches, for sure.

And this.   And that’s all I need. The ashtray, the remote control, the paddle game, this magazine and the chair.

[walking outside]

And I don’t need one other thing, except my dog.

[dog barks]

I don’t need my dog.

There were just too many things I would have started to negotiate for, yes, even for just one week, so I tried to simplify.   We picked the most essential things: peanut butter (all of us), frosted shredded wheat (6 y.o.), canned peaches (4 y.o.) and coffee (me, but it really is for the greater good).  And the rest, to the best of our abilities, is food “grown by our neighbors.”

It’s providing limitless Fascinating Explanations and Interesting Facts, like:

I see from how you’re lying on the floor screaming that the butterscotch pudding isn’t what you wanted.  You probably wanted chocolate, right?  Well, did you know that chocolate comes from a big yellow fruit?  And that that fruit – it’s called cacao – only grows in very warm places?  Did Mommy ever tell you about when she went to live in a tent in a place called Belize and helped harvest chocolate in the jungle …

Riveting stuff, I assure you.

But for many of us, the food day was pretty darn good.  It was those yummy waffles with maple syrup for breakfast (mine was burnt and slathered with homemade jam before being wolfed down on the way to a.m. drop-offs), Does’ Leap goat Caprella, Plum Hill farm plums, and homemade-with-Gleason-Grains whole wheat sourdough bread for grown-up lunch.

Dinner was homemade-no-machine-needed whole wheat pasta for dinner, also made with Gleason Grains bread flour, cooked, drained, buttered, and tossed with Vermont Butter & Cheese chevre, wilted swiss chard, and halved grape tomatoes from the garden.  Some of us had the aforementioned butterscotch pudding for dessert, while others elected to have pure localvore temper tantrums instead.  We go on.

Blessed Silence Sunday: Zucchini Tarte Tatin 0

Posted on September 20, 2009 by crankycheryl

cohousing intl meal 013

Zucchini-Polenta-Chevre Tarte Tatin a la Guilty Kitchen.  We made 6 of these to serve to a group of 20 international guests of our cohousing community this week, along with Maple Brined Chicken, Roasted Vegetable Salad and Elderberry-Blackberry Sorbet.  Hooray for the Vermont harvest!

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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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