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.

 

Women Who Do Too Much

My friend, Diane Marquette, emailed me after I told her I’d forgotten to do something important. This is what she said…

” ‘Women Who Still Do Too Much,’ like ourselves, cannot keep all the plates spinning all the time. Sometimes stuff’s gonna wobble and break. That’s why there’s glue in the junk drawer.

I appreciated the “still” in what she said. I am trying hard to pare down my commitments so I have more time to write. There are a few more things to do for the Eastern Shore Writers Association and the Bay to Ocean Conference, but then more of my time will be my own. Of course, now that spring is here, the garden is calling…but I am writing every day and the plot for the third book in the Caribbean series is pulling together. I’m thinking about starting to post some excepts from the first book in the series.

Saturday we drove to Philadelphia to take our granddaughter to dinner. She was in town for an Occupational Therapy conference. She lives on the west coast and doesn’t get east very often, so we really enjoyed catching up. I love that we have the same chin! She’s a lovely young woman and we couldn’t be prouder grandparents.

Sunday afternoon I attended a meeting for volunteers at the St. Michaels Farmer’s Market. It’s an important institution in our community for those of us who care about where  are food comes from and how it’s grown or raised. I am excited to see how there can be more linkage between the St. Michaels Community Garden (one of my volunteer activities) and the Farmers Market. Many of us who grow most of our own produce supplement at the Farmers Market. I am stumped by summer squash. My zucchinis and yellow squash never survive squash borers.

Veggie signs went up on Talbot Street this weekend. This is a fun fundraiser for the Farmers Market.Other organizations do similar fund raisers. Before Valentine’s Day we have Hearts on Talbot, we have Jack Russel dog signs before the Jack Russel races at Perry Cabin, and silver stars before Christmas in St. Michaels.

 

There’s always something going on in this wonderful small town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

New Year’s Day Bean Soup

My friend, Diane, from my morning yoga class gives us yogis bags of beans at Christmas so we can make New Year’s Day Bean Soup. She told me she started doing this as gifts her children could give their teachers – apparently much to the kid’s chagrin that first year. But then the teachers and friends and neighbors started asking for the bags of beans. I suspect there is some ratio of the different kinds of beans, but the combination has evolved over the years, Diane told me

Their must be fifteen kinds of beans (including black eyed peas for wealth and happiness) in the Ziploc bag which included a recipe sheet. I didn’t realize how beautiful beans could be until I took this photo.

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To make soup, soak the beans overnight, then drain the following morning. Add two quarts of water and a ham hock. The recipe says you don’t have to use a ham hock and you would have a tasty vegetarian version. Diane told me they often use kielbasa.

Bring the beans to a boil and simmer slowly for two hours. Then add 1 large chopped onion, a 28 oz can of tomatoes, and celery and carrots if you’ve got them on hand. Season with1 tsp chili powder, lemon juice, salt and pepper and (the directions say) any other spices that spark your fancy (basil, oregano, etc.).  Remove ham hock, cut up ham and return to the soup.  Simmer slowly for one hour or more. This soup is even better the second day.

Even if you didn’t get a bag of beautiful beans this Christmas, check out your grocery store to see what kinds of beans are on the shelf and make a kettle of nourishing winter goodness. This is a soup that begs for improvisation. I found some forgotten pulled pork in my freezer last week and that’s what I’m going to use instead of a ham hock. I’ll used my canned tomato sauce instead of store bought tomatoes. And I have have a bag of carrots from my garden that grew in wonky shapes. Chopped, they’ll be perfect for this recipe. I might even throw in some finely chopped Red Russian kale from my community garden bed. Oh, and  couple of those Hakurei turnips I harvested before the first hard frost. It’s going to be delicious.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Book Club

The Stinky Book Club met last week. We shared what we’d been reading and after dinner, this is what we had for dessert. Laura had two bites and Mary Ann and I inhaled the rest. Chocolate hazelnut gelato. Yum! I think we meet as much for the food as we do to talk about books.

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The list below is what I’ve read in the last two months. Some of these are books recommended by Laura Ambler or Mary Ann Hillier, the other two members of the group. Laura is a very eclectic reader as is Mary Ann who likes sci-fi more than I do. I love getting reviews and recommendations from my friends.

Mary Ann, smart cookie that she is, has a small book in which she enters her thoughts about what she has just read. I try and remember and resort to looking on my Kindle. It tells me something if I can remember the book from it’s title or have to go look at the first couple of pages to remind myself what the story is. I liked some of these books better than others, but all were 4 stars or above although there are a couple that I couldn’t remember reading.Hmmm. Maybe those were 3 stars.

I also am guided by the daily deals Amazon puts in my inbox. I have to say I resent paying more than $10 for an e-book. So I look for deals of the day, deals of the week, and deals of the month. Amazon knows what I’ve bought so they make recommendations and when I find an author I like, such as Catherine Ryan Hyde, I’ll buy any of her novels when they are $1.99. Mary Ann loved the new Harry Potter play and paid full price for it. I’ll wait until the price comes down.

I read a lot in the middle of the night when I wake up and can’t fall back to sleep. Anything too creepy or scary or disturbing is out. One problem is that I have some paper books on my reading list, but they don’t have built in lights for middle of the nights reading. Here’s my list for mid-June through mid-August,

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. I read this because Mary Ann recommended it, and I loved this spare story of how a curmudgeonly widower becomes a hero in his small community with the help of new neighbors who look past his eccentricities.

The Glassblower by Petra Durst Benning. Historical fiction. The daughters of skilled glassblower in a European village of glassblowers have to make their way after their father’s death at a time when women did not blow glass or run the business. I was intrigued enough by the three sisters that I bought the next in the series which follows the sister who went to America.

The Wiregrass – a Novel by Pam Webber. Coming of age in the south in the early 60’s. A group of cousins spend summers with an aunt and uncle and confront racism and child abuse.

Leaving Blythe River by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Another coming of age novel. A young teen hunts for his father (with whom he has a difficult and distant relationship) when his father is lost in remote mountains in the western United States.

Burying the Honeysuckle Girls by Emily Carpenter. The daughter of a “damaged” mother and grandmother searches for how they died.

The Secret History by Donna Tart. I don’t usually read what I consider “literary” novels and this certainly is. Donna Tart wrote The Goldfinch which was enough for me to buy this book when it was offered at a discount on Amazon. It is worth the full price. Tart is an amazing writer and the convoluted story was a page turner.

Still Waters by Viveca Sten. A mystery set somewhere along the coast of Sweden. I didn’t see the ending coming.

A Beautiful Medicine by David Mercier. I read this after taking David’s mindfulness meditation class early in the summer. A truly interesting look at the mind/body connection.

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson. This was one I had to go back and look at on my Kindle as I couldn’t remember a thing about it. It was about a man in WW11 – or was it?

Broken Grace by E.C. Diskin. A woman has no memory after a car crash and comes back to dark secrets.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. Another “no memory” story. Interesting that I read these back to back. Not intentionally. When the main character falls at the gym she comes back to a world where she believes she is awaiting the birth of her first child. She’s really 39 and getting divorced. Moriarty is really good at the artful blending of the back and current story which is not so easy to do.

The Language of Hoofbeats by Catherine Ryan Hyde. The author of Pay It Forward tells the story of a lesbian couple with adopted and foster kids move across the road from a crotchety, troubled woman with a horse she never lets out of the corral.

Take Me With You by Catherine Ryan Hyde. A burned out teacher taking his son’s ashes to Yellowstone, finds himself taking two half orphans along on the journey while their father is in jail. I really loved this book.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hasseini. Thirty years of Afghan history told through the eyes of two very different women. Troubling but so well done.

After Anna by Alex Locke. A who-done-it mystery in which a child is kidnapped and returned after a week to her separated parents.

Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson. An American author hikes, trains and drives around Great Britain. After a slow start I found myself engaged.

I’m five books into the next month’s cycle before the book club meets again at the end of September. I might try the rum raisin gelato next time.

The Day the Squash Plants Died

I’m giving up on summer squash. In a previous blog I wrote about the lush zucchinis I had growing in my bed at the Community Garden. I even had a photo of a couple of zucchinis – a traditional dark green skinned zuke and a new variety (to me) with pale green skin. I’d always lost my squash plants to borers so I was really excited.

First it was some yellowing leaves. Then whole stalks began to die off. Clearly it was a borer issue.This had been a huge canopy of lush green leaves just days ago.

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It was too late to save this plant – the dark green zuchinni – and left the pale green one. I’ll check it tomorrow and it may get pulled as well. I’ll plant some fall crop in that end of that bed.

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When you see this on the squash vine, it’s too late.That stuff on the left side of the slit is borer frass (poop). Apparently you can slit the stem to kill the grub inside but I have never had much luck with that. Summer squash and pumpkins are particularly susceptible to borers and any winter squash I ever planted bit the dust as well.

In the meantime the cantaloupe and watermelons in the same bed are doing very well. I have two cantaloupes the size of small bowling balls and watermelons the size of big tennis balls and there are lots of flowers and bees. Note: Not being into sports of any kind, I couldn’t think of balls the right sizes. Borers don’t seem to bother cantaloupes and watermelons as much as they do summer squash.

I guess the universe wants me to support the local farmers who seem to know how to outwit squash borers. I’m giving up on growing summer squash!

 

 

 

 

 

A Braised Short Ribs Recipe

After two days of humping loads of chips to cover the paths at the St. Michaels Community Garden, I had aching muscles and was ready for an easy oven meal (fast forward to bottom of post). That’s not me in the photo. I was the photographer who was taking a break.

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Thanks goodness for morning yoga at The Studio. We’re hoping for another load today and that job will be finished for another year. My bed is still producing. Carrots, mache (a rosette of tender greens that’s fabulous in salads), and kale.

I’ve started tomato plants under grow lights, enough to share with some friends. I’m starting Amish Paste and Sun Gold cherry tomatoes. So far they look great. The heat mat helped with germination.

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We’ve had a couple of cold days, cold enough in the evening to have the last fires of the season in the fireplace. And cold enough for a hearty dinner of Braised Short Ribs. This is what it looked like before three hours in the oven. Those carrots and parsley are from my Community Garden bed.

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This is what it looked like when I took it out.

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It was so good I’m including the recipe which a friend shared. Originally the recipe came from The Village Market in St. Michaels. I got my short ribs at BJ’s which recently opened by us. They were fatty and I didn’t know enough to trim them. Next time I’ll buy the short ribs from The Village Market. I’ve been told by a friend in my yoga class whose brother-in-law works at the Market that they trim their meat!

Braised Short Ribs of Beef

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus additional to sprinkle over the ribs before cooking

4 lbs beef short ribs, cut into 2 inch lengths

5 tbsp olive oil

8 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

1 ½ cups canned Italian plum tomatoes, with juice

2 cups sliced carrots, 1/8 inch thick each

3 cups sliced onions

8 whole cloves

½ cup chopped Italian parsley

¾ cup red wine vinegar

3 Tbsp tomato paste

2 Tbsp brown sugar

2 tsp salt

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

3 cups beef stock

 

Sprinkle pepper over short ribs. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or casserole. Sear ribs, browning well. Drain on paper towels. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Return half of the ribs to the casserole. Sprinkle with half of the garlic. Layer half of each vegetable over the meat. Add 4 cloves and sprinkle with half of the parsley. Repeat with remaining ingredients, ending with a layer of chopped parsley. In a bowl mix together vinegar, tomato paste, brown sugar, salt, 1 tsp black pepper and cayenne. Pour over meat and vegetables and then add beef stock just to cover. Cover casserole, and bring to boil over medium heat. Bake in oven for 1 ½ hours. Uncover and bake for 1 ½   hours longer.

Enjoy!