A Busy Weekend

Next year will be the 20th year of the St. Michaels Farmers Market. It was started by a couple of women who then helped start other farmers markets in the area. They called them Fresh Farm Markets and the parent organization provided insurance, organizational help, etc. Fresh Farm Markets are now primarily on the Western Shore (Annapolis, DC, etc.) and this is the last year they will be the umbrella organization for the St. Michaels market. We are in transition this year but have wonderful vendors with terrific products. It’s fun getting to know the farmers.

I volunteered to help get out the weekly market reminders on MailChimp. It was something I knew how to do and enjoy. And my husband and I have been volunteering some Saturdays to help with market set-up. We are scheduled to do that again this weekend. Last Saturday was rainy and I woke up this morning at 3:30 to the sound of rain. It seems to have moved off for now, but even if it rains, people come prepared.

By the time we got to the market at 7:30 it was 65 degrees and not raining. The market was bustling by the time I left at 10. I’d walked over to the Community Garden to take a look at a bed nobody wanted. I’ll weed it this weekend and plant some blue hubbard squash I raised from seed. The beds at the Community Garden are 14 feet long so the plants will have plenty of room to run.

Last week at the Farmers Market I bought a loaf of low gluten bread. What a treat. We don’t keep bread in the house because my husband has gluten sensitivity. We had the last few pieces last night – toasted and topped with homemade guacamole – while we played rummy.

The town will be chockablock this morning. Besides the Farmers Market, it’s the weekend of the St. Michaels Wine Festival. People who live in town have to put up with more than the usual weekend foot traffic – and some drunken shenanigans. We helped one of the first years of the Wine Festival when it was held at the Maritime Museum grounds. Now it is spread all over town at inside venues and tented spaces.We usually don’t go into town on Wine Festival Weekend unless we need to.

This afternoon we are helping with an event to be held at the Avalon Theatre in Easton. It is a fund raiser for the Talbot Interfaith Shelter. People will gather to sing together, raising positive vibrations in our community for this very good cause. Here’s the link to the inspiration. It gives me chills every time I watch it.

I’ll let you know how it turns out. When I get home I’m working in the garden. I have Amish paste tomato plants to get in the ground and my husband is going to mow at the Community Garden. This is the time of year when sometimes the grass needs to be mowed twice a week.

 

God Jul

My blog readers know that I am Norwegian on my mother’s side, so I am sending you a photo of the traditional Norwegian wreath cake which is found in most Norwegian homes at Christmas. God Jul. If I were half Swedish this might be a photo of me with a wreath of lit candles on my head a la St. Lucia, the mythical bearer of light. The wreath cake is a lot safer.

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Here it is decorated.

We had dinner Christmas Eve with my brother and sister-in-law. Farikol was the main dish (lamb in cabbage) which is another Norwegian national dish. It was delicious.

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My sister-in-law has her own tradition for dessert on Christmas Eve. She has some Swedish genes, but passed on the lit candles on the head and served us a fabulous baked Alaska. They turned out the lights in the dining room, poured brandy over the top and lit it. It was beautiful but I couldn’t figure out how to turn off the flash on my phone camera in time to get a flaming picture.

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Merry Christmas to all. Enjoy this day with your dear ones.

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.

A White Christmas and a Winter Harvest

We spent Christmas in Montana with my son, daughter-in-law and two granddaughters home from college. It was snowing when we were picked up at the airport and kept snowing for the next four days. About 24″ in all. I call this a Montana snow gauge. It’s a piece of plywood on a post and in the summer it’s a bird feeder. In the winter it makes a handy snow gauge.

Montana show gauge

The snow was beautiful. It’s been years since we’ve experienced a white Christmas.The house should be on a Christmas card. In Montana life doesn’t stop because of snow. We drove through snow covered roads to see the new Star Wars movie. I have to say I was a little disappointed. Maybe because I must have missed some of the intervening movies.

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Warm and cozy inside the house, we knit, baked cookies, and my granddaughters made a Kransekakke – a Norwegian wreath cake. The recipe is: 1 lb ground almonds, 1 lb confectioners sugar, 3 egg whites. The dough is rolled into snakes and put into special pans which create 18 rings – each a little smaller than the one before. This has become a tradition for the Christmases we spend in Montana. Traditionally you remove the rings from the bottom up so the tree shape remains. We took a vote and after Christmas dinner (where everything on the table with the exception of a can of cream of mushroom soup came from the homestead), and began eating the cake from the top down.

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When I posted pictures of the snow on Facebook people responded that they had the AC on on Christmas day on the Eastern Shore. We came home yesterday and today I went to my raised bed at the St. Michaels Community Garden. Here’s my harvest from December 29th, 2015. Kale, chard, spinach, hakuri turnips and carrots.

winter harvest

I was wondering when the seed catalogs would start to arrive. This is what was in the mail we picked up at the post office Tuesday morning. Spring gardening will be here before I know it. In the meantime, somebody needs to tell the daffodils NOT YET! Plants on the
Eastern Shore are very confused because of the warm temps.

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‘Tis the Season

I grew up with a Norwegian mother (second generation in the US) and a German father (the Schippers had been here longer). Because immigrants back then were intent on assimilating, neither my mother nor my father grew up speaking Norwegian or German. A lost opportunity. I don’t recall any specific ethnic traditions in our household. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t create my own.

One Christmas season my brother, Ross, made a kransekake – a Norwegian wreath cake which consists of eighteen sequentially smaller rings stacked one upon the other. I was impressed so I got the recipe and tried it. Trying to figure out the sizes of those rings was interesting and I don’t have a photo of that first attempt. It was a very wonky tower, but the rings were quite tasty.

A few Christmases later my brother and his wife, Linda, gave me a set of kransekake pans. Now the rings would be exactly the right size. However the ground almond, confectioners sugar and egg white mixture that is the recipe needed tweaking. I was grinding my almonds in my food processor and the dough puffed up too much. However, by that time I had involved my Montana granddaughters in baking a kransekake when we did a Montana Christmas. Those girls are all grown up now, but have requested baking a kransekake when we visit at Christmas this year. It’s become a tradition.

Ross told me he ground his blanched almonds in a coffee grinder. I went on line to YouTube for more instructions, then ordered a coffee grinder on Amazon. I had it (free shipping) in two days. I love Amazon Prime.

Yesterday I was ready. One of my yogi friends, Diane French, came to help. We discovered we needed to start the grinding process in the food processor to make the almonds into smaller pieces. Almonds are bigger than coffee beans! Duh. Then we decided to put the ground almonds through a sieve to make sure all the leftover almond bits were taken out and put through the grinder again. We made the dough and let it rest according to the recipe.

We rolled the dough into ropes the size of a pinkie finger and began filling the rings in the pans.

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The rings are baked at 396 degrees for 12 minutes. We learned that they needed to be cooled completely before we took them out of the non-stick pans.

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Next came the job of stacking the rings. They are quite close in size so there is probably a method, but we eyeballed it. White frosting is put on each ring and the next smaller size is laid on top. The frosting acts as a glue.

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We used white frosting in one of those spray cans. Here is the completed cake. It is a little wonky from one angle, but this is it’s best side. A turntable would have helped. I’ll get cans of red and  green frosting and decorate the cake with holly. It will be even more festive when that is done. Traditionally it might have had Norwegian flags on it or Christmas crackers. This cake is also served at Norwegian weddings.

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I have to say that grinding the almonds in the coffee grinder made a difference. This is the best and prettiest kranskake I’ve made. However, those first couple done with the grand-girls are the ones I’ll really remember and the fact that there is now a Norwegian tradition in our family. For those who are wondering, the kake is served from the bottom ring up. Several bottom rings are removed and each ring is cut into pieces. In this way, the rest of the kake remains in the shape of a Christmas tree.

This holiday treat is going to the Woman’s Club on St. Michaels on Wednesday. Laura Ambler and I are the program for the December meeting. We’ll be talking about how we turned our Christmas memory book, The Santa Diaries, into a produced Christmas play of the same name. ‘Tis the season of memories and making traditions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do What Your Mother Tells You

My mother died six years ago. But I still talk to her – usually in that thin space between consciousness and sleep. Last week I had something troubling me and I knew it would almost certainly keep me awake. Or if I woke up in the middle of the night, I’d start obsessing which, as you know, doesn’t help solve anything.

So I asked my mother what I should do. And the answer came loud and clear.

Bake pies!

What the hell did that mean? But I did go to sleep. When I woke in the middle of the night she was still telling me to bake pies. In the morning I asked my psychologist husband what he thought it meant. A wise man, he said he thought my mother was telling me to stop worrying (easier said than done) and do something that gave me joy.

My mother was an Iowa farm girl and from her I learned to cook, bake and preserve food. We weren’t a mother and daughter who shared confidences. I didn’t consider her my best friend, but she was always there when I needed her. And she taught me confidence and how to do things. She told me I could do or be anything I wanted. At age eight, when I told her I wanted to be a brain surgeon and a ballerina, she didn’t crack a smile.

When I asked for advice, she gave it, but didn’t interfere if I didn’t follow her suggestions. This time I thought I should listen.

peach pie crust

So I baked pies the next day. I haven’t baked a peach pie in a very long time, even though they were my favorite kind when I was a kid. I even made the crust from scratch.

peach pies

When they came out of the oven, I took one to Laura’s office and she and her accountant, Betty Ann, and I took a pie break. Baking pies and sharing them with friends gave me joy.

Sometimes you just need to do what your mother tells you.