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


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.

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

Posted on September 23, 2009 by crankycheryl

[originally posted at]

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.

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!

Blessed Silence Sunday: Applesauce 3

Posted on September 13, 2009 by crankycheryl



Salad! Flowers! Mwa Ha Ha Ha! 5

Posted on June 11, 2009 by crankycheryl

[6/13/09 Update:  Check out this picture and much more frightfully gorgeous food at Photograzing!]

crazy-hair-and-evil-salad-021So one spring day you’re in your kid’s class during their free choice time, and his friend sits down and starts drawing.  He wants to draw you, he says, and before you know it there you are in a field of grass with the black t-shirt and shorts he had you add in.

Then he puts stripes on your shorts and you ask, “”Dude!  What am I, like a bee?”  And then he’s giggling madly and drawing wings and a stinger on your behind and antennae on your head.  And then he draws flowers and you ask what kind they are and his eyes get big and sincere and he spurts out, “EVIL SORCERER FLOWERS!”  You gasp and he’s giggling again, and you ask if you can bring the picture with you.

And then later you update your Facebook status so it says, “Cheryl says things can’t be all bad if your son’s 6-year-old friend draws you as a bee-girl in a field of Evil Sorcerer flowers.”  Then a food-writer friend you really respect tells you that you owe it to the bees to post a honey recipe.  And then you realize that your CSA share is about to start, and after you pick up your greens and cheese and bread, you go home and make something like this.

Evil Sorcerer Salad with Bee-Girl Dressing

Per diner:

  • 3 cups of spicy greens (arugula, mustards and the like), cleaned
  • 2 strawberries, cut into the shape of broken hearts
  • 1 slice of a nice seedy bread, lightly toasted
  • 2 smallish slices of a brie-type cheese (if you’re local or have access to Vermont cheeses, try Does’ Leap Caprella and gleefully eat whatever isn’t destined to go on someone’s salad)
  • A sprinkle of chipotle powder
  • A handful of edible flowers like pansies and nasturtiums.  Make sure they’re organic, and really try to include the nasturtiums, which are spicy, and therefore more nefarious.

Bee-Girl Dressing (enough for 4 diners):

  • 2 T. honey
  • 1 t. hot sauce (I used Sriracha)
  • 1 T. apple cider vinegar
  • 4 T. olive oil
  • 1/8 t. (a.k.a. “just a little bit”) kosher salt

Whisk together dressing ingredients and set aside.  Put cheese on bread, sprinkle with chipotle, and then toast just until warm and melty.  Toss greens with dressing and then put onto plate.  Cut bread/cheese into triangles and place on top of salad, with broken-hearted strawberries in the middle.  Arrange evil sorcerer flowers according to your dastardly plan and serve.  Your own villainous chuckle wouldn’t hurt.


Milk + Mold + Mites + Cave = Oh My! 0

Posted on May 21, 2009 by crankycheryl


I doubt I’ll ever get married again, but if I do it’s going to be to Cabot Clothbound Cheddar.

I picked some up on my last pass through the Northeast Kingdom, and have been sitting here eating it right down to its stinky rind, and then I ate the rind itself.  I didn’t want to keep going, but was compelled because I’ve been looking for the words to describe it.  Such is my commitment to food writing.

I agree with Formaggio Kitchen, which describes it as a “cow milk cheese that puts us at the table with the best cheddars of the world. It has a smooth firm texture and a sharp and fruity flavor with hints of caramel sweetness on the finish.”

And with Cowgirl Creamery, who says “sharp and creamy, this cheddar doesn’t so much melt in your mouth as it does coat every surface with caramelized luxury.”

Yup.  All those.  Luxurious, caramel, buttery, sharp, crumbly but sumptuous, perhaps a tiny bit nutty.  It’s just wonderful.

My friend Suzanne from Craftsbury, who seems to know where all the excellent food in the Northeast Kingdom is, told me about it.  How it’s made by Cabot and aged in the trés chic caves at Jasper Hill. She scrunched up her hands, showing me how they turn it and massage the cheese.  (When I asked a cheesemaker at the Burlington Farmers’ Market about turning and massaging cheese, he nodded and told me it was how they keep the cheese properly shaped, and the cheese mites – here’s a link to an image of one if you like to be grossed out – under control.)

Here’s what Cabot says about its creation:

“Cabot Clothbound Cheddar is a marvel of milk, master cheesemaking and artful aging,” said Cabot cheese maestro Marcel Gravel. Made one vat at a time, from the milk of purely Holstein cows, the result is a singular, Old World style cheddar. A special, proprietary blend of cheese cultures gives an unpasteurized note to this pasteurized milk cheddar.

“Traditional hooping and clothbound curds are just the beginning of this vanguard, Vermont collaboration. After creation, the wheels journey north along the Revolutionary War-era Bayley-Hazen Road into the care of Andy and Mateo Kehler, fellow Vermont cheesemakers and affineurs, and owners of The Cellars at Jasper Hill Farm. “Here, the cave-aged wheels benefit from spa-like pampering and controlled, mold-ripened maturing to develop their beautiful, natural rind,” said Mateo Kehler, co-owner of Jasper Hill Farm. “It’s all about spruce boards, hand turning and tender brushing. [They brush to get rid of the mites on clothbound cheeses.]

“The cheddar’s texture and flavor owe their balance and subtle tones equally to both parts of this dual team effort: traditional clothbound cheddar made at the historic creamery in Cabot and lovingly matured in Greensboro among the hills above Caspian Lake.”

Find some (I got mine at Greensboro’s Willey’s Store) and try it.  And then please bring me some more.  I promise not to complain if it doesn’t take out the trash or pick up its socks.

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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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