Leading up to Halloween

A couple of weeks ago we had relatives from Philadephia come down to visit. It was a lovely fall day and we went to The Crab Claw for lunch and picked crabs. We sat outside by the water watching what was going on in the harbor. It was lovely.

Our friends have an eight year old boy and I was impressed that he was was game to learn how to pick a crab. But his interest flagged and he became fascinated with the claws and how they worked. And then, because he’s an eight year old boy, he wanted to make something with the claws. Clever kid. I doubt they lasted until Halloween.

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We’ve lived in this neighborhood for eleven years. When we first moved here we got 30-40 trick or treaters in the two hour time slot allowed by the town. If you turned your porch light on kids knew they could knock at your door. I began to keep track of how many kids showed up so I’d know how many bags of candy to buy. Having those little candy bars around after Halloween is a problem for me. I swear they call my name. Mala, Mala, Mala. I know I could just throw them in the trash, but that would be only after I had picked out the kinds I liked the best.

By three years ago we had 6-10 kids and two years only four. That was way too much leftover candy. So last year we didn’t put the porch light on and we won’t again this year.

I hear from people who live in the center of St. Michaels that they get hundreds of kids. I’m not kidding. Hundreds!  I guess that’s where all our kids go now. I miss seeing the little ones, but I don’t miss that spooky voice in my head reminding me where I’ve hidden the leftover candy.

Coming Up: my adventures with leaf castings with cement.

 

 

Baking with Milly

My mother was an incredible pie baker. Growing up on an Iowa farm with a father known as Apple Johnson and renowned for his orchards, most of her pies were of the fruit variety. Apple, peach, plum, gooseberry, strawberry rhubarb, and sour cherry. She always made her own crust and one of her cookbooks has notations next to a crust recipe for how to double, triple and quadruple the mixture.

Whenever I bake my mother is in the kitchen with me. She taught me how to make pie crust and roll it out like a pro. By the time I was eight I could make a credible pie from scratch. I remember her holding my hands, showing me how to make the fluted edging on the crust.

Today I was baking pumpkin pies for the St. Michaels Community Center.

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Tomorrow is their pumpkin carving contest and pie baking contest. I was just making pies to donate as many are sold by the slice, but they came out so pretty, I think I might enter one of them. Did I make my own crust? I confess I don’t often do that anymore. In fact, I don’t bake a lot anymore. My husband is gluten intolerant and having yummy baked goods in the house is not beneficial to our waistlines or his health. This time I saved out a little of the filling and baked it without a crust for us. These pies were made with Pillsbury already rolled out crust from the grocery store. I put two packages of crust in the freezer for the two apple pies I’ll make for the Thanksgiving table..

The filling is from a recipe from my friend Cathy Mendenhall. She actually won the Community Center pie contest one year with this recipe and has shared it with many friends. My mother’s pumpkin pies used the recipe on the label of Libby’s pumpkin. This is better – sorry, Mom. The half stick of butter and heavy cream certainly contribute to the fantastic result.

Cathy Mendenhall’s PUMPKIN PIE

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 tablespoon flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp nutmeg (I used freshly grated nutmeg.)

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/2 cup cream

1/2 stick melted butter

4 beaten eggs

2 cups pumpkin (I used one can per pie which is slightly less than 2 cups)

Unbaked pie shell. (I believe store bought pie crust is better than not making a pie.)

Combine sugar, flour, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice.  Stir well.

Add eggs, melted butter and cream to dry ingredients and beat with a hand mixer until well blended.  Then add pumpkin stirring well.( I used a whisk instead of getting the mixer out.)

Pour into unbaked pie shell and bake in 400 degree oven for 45 minutes or until done. (I baked two pies on a half sheet pan and the crust didn’t burn.)

Insert a knife in center to test for doneness.  When it comes out clean the pie is done.  Serve plain or topped with whipped cream.

Caramel Apples with Nuts and Chocolate

We have new next door neighbors. The house had been a rental for the eleven years we’ve lived here and it’s wonderful to see this couple dig in to make it their own. One of the first things they did was remove a row of Leland Cyprus along their back fence. That will give me some much needed sun in a back section of my garden although I will no longer be able to cut cyprus branches from the back of that hedgerow to use in my winter windowboxes.

This weekend the neighbors borrowed our chop saw for two days and this is what they brought over to say thank you. The presentation was incredible and the caramel apples are fantastic. Kerry and Renee – you can borrow our tools anytime.

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I liked the Halloween color contrast between the colorful apples, the chocolate and the caramel. I guess you can get these clear cellophane bags at the craft store. I’m lucky if I get cookies for a neighbor on a paper plate and covered with Saran. I really should try to do this better.

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I cut the apples into slices so they would be easier to eat, although that might have been a BIG mistake.

Here’s the recipe as best I could figure it out from my neighbor’s description. I think she’s one of those cooks who doesn’t always follow a recipe.

6 craft sticks

6 cold, crisp apples (caramel sticks better if apples are cold)

1 (14 ounce) package individually wrapped caramels, unwrapped

2 tablespoons milk

Chopped mixed salted nuts

Dark chocolate bar, melted

Remove the stem from each apple and press a craft stick into the top. Butter a parchment covered baking sheet.Place caramels and milk in a microwave safe bowl, and microwave 2 minutes, stirring once. Or melt caramels slowly on stove top. Allow to cool briefly.

Roll each apple quickly in caramel sauce until well coated. Place on prepared baking sheet to set. Place in refrigerator to cool. Before caramel becomes totally cold, roll in chopped salted mixed nuts. Return to fridge to cool.

Melt dark chocolate and drizzle over apples. Store in refrigerator.

Green Tomatoes = Chowchow

I had a table full of green tomatoes in the garage after pulling up the tomato plants from my raised beds at the Community Garden. I could have waited for them to ripen (some of them would have) but I needed the table for another project. While sorting through a pile of magazines, I came across a recipe for green tomato Chow Chow. I even had almost all the ingredients in the house.

I needed 3 lbs of green tomatoes, so I pulled out my kitchen scale and the amount of tomatoes I had was just a tad over. Perfect. I pulsed them in the Cuisinart, salted them and put them in a colander to drain.

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While that was happening, I began running my pint canning jars through a quick cycle in the dishwasher.  I pulsed a head of cabbage and 2 large onions in the Cuisinart. (I took a selfie of myself crying over the onions but vanity prevented me from putting it in this blog post.)

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Then 1 hot red pepper from my garden,  and two large red bell peppers – the recipe called for a green one which I didn’t use. I like the pop of color the red peppers added.

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I gathered pickling spices into a piece of cheesecloth, and dumped it all into the biggest stock pot I had.

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Sugar and vinegar were added and it boiled for an hour and a half. I thought it might be mush after cooking it so long, but it wasn’t.

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The house smelled wonderful. Towards the end of that boiling, I got my canner on the stove and started heating water. I used my electric kettle to help the process along. I sterilized my lids and tools and was ready to go as soon as the dishwasher stopped. At the end I had seven pints of green tomato chow chow. A pint and a half went into the fridge and it’s delicious.

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Here’s the recipe if you’re interested.

Green Tomato Chowchow

  • 3 lbs green tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1 medium head cabbage
  • 1 lb onions (about 3 medium)
  • 2 large sweet red peppers
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped – I used a red pepper from my garden
  • 4 cups cider vinegar
  • 2 3/4 cups sugar
  • 4 tsp mixed pickling spice

Chop tomatoes. Transfer to a strainer and sprinkle with salt. Let stand for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, chop cabbage, onions and red peppers. I chopped onions and cabbage separately in the Cuisinart. Place in a large pot with drained tomatoes and jalapeno. Stir in vinegar and sugar. Place pickling spices on a double thickness of cheesecloth. Gather corners to enclose spices, tie securely with string and add to pan.

Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered until thickened, stirring occasionally, 1 – 1 1/2 hours. Discard the spice bag.

The original recipe called for this to be cooled and refrigerated until used. I put my boiling hot mixture in prepared pint jars and processed in a hot water bath canner for 10 minutes. This made 8 pints with a little more. My canner holds 7 jars, so the remainder went into the fridge.

This is a delicious accompaniment to all kinds of meat. It had a little warmth from the pepper, which is all I wanted. Oh, I also put a clove of garlic in each of the jars I canned. I haven’t opened any of those yet to see what the garlic does to the flavor. I will definitely make green tomato chowchow again next year.

 

 

 

 

Bay to Ocean Registration Officially Open

Registration for the 20th annual Bay to Ocean Writers Conference officially opened today. At 6 a.m. I sent out a MailChimp email to our list of over 1000 who may be interested.

Here’s the link for the BTO sessions. I spent months pulling faculty together with the help of my committee, Ann Wilson and Loriann Oberlin. Then I began asking, nudging, bullying presenters for the information we needed and put it on the website.It had to be ready to go by today.

This year a new speaker on the topic of memoir is Glen Finland.

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Her book, Next Stop: An Autistic Son Grows Up, about helping her young adult autistic son cope with being out in the world has won multiple awards. Memoir is just one of the craft topics available at the conference. If you are a writer or have been thinking about writing, this conference has something for writers of every level. There’s always something new to learn.

Registration is through EventBrite (handled by ESWA Treasurer Charlene Marcum) and yesterday I registered my husband just to make sure that worked. It did! Phew! That’s always a relief.

This conference wouldn’t happen without the hard work of people who’ve done specific jobs for a number of years. At this point it’s a pretty well oiled machine, but it’s very exciting to be involved in the 20th year of this conference.