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Food Friday: The Common Cold

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The temperatures have been dancing up and down, although it hasn’t seemed too much like a grim winter yet. Oh,dear. I’ve gone and offended the winter weather gods, and we will have blizzards thoughout February. My apologies.

But that’s OK. I can just rack up some more quality time spent in bed, with my box of tissues, my dry up pills, and my Kindle. It is thoroughly demoralizing to be felled by a cold. Are there special colds, or just the common denominator kind? I have lived through car accidents, broken bones and childbirth, and nothing has made be feel more puny and vulnerable than a cold.

There is none of the middle-of-the-night drama of appendicitis, or the heaving violence of intestinal flu, thank goodness. I just lie against the pillows, hoping that I look vaguely like Camille, and cough cough cough. So attractive. And even more so now that my nose has gone a positively incandescent rose madder red from all the blowing. Who needs mousse? My hair stands up in spikes, all by itself.

Sadly, Luke the wonder dog speaks cough cough cough. He scuttles over from his comfy cushion in the corner of the bedroom, to sitting worriedly by my side of the bed, staring sadly at me. I wonder what doggy expletive I am shouting out to him whenever I cough. He does not react well to swearing as it is.

I let out a stream of oaths the other day when I dropped a bottle of wine, and it smashed to smithereens on the kitchen tile. Luke was so worried about that blue streak of swear words that spewed unbidden from my otherwise lady-like (Camille, remember?) lips, that he scuttled over as if he had been to blame. (I might yell at myself for stupidly dropping a bottle of cheap white wine, but I would’t yell at him. The poor dog has a misplaced sense of guilt and responsibility.) That is the sad, sincere, guilt-ridden face I see staring up at me whenever I have a coughing jag.

Luke does not let his responsibility for my cough cough coughing interfere when his internal clock announces that it is time for a walk. He might just be mutt of a dog, but he has a great facility for telling time. He might be Swiss, because at 8:00 AM, 12:01 PM and 4:59 PM he makes a dramatic show of wagging and wriggling himself about with anticipatory pleasure, insinuating himself between me and the computer, or me and the drawing table. That is very charming behavior normally, but when I have to drag the sneezy snotty cough cough coughing self out from the warm embrace of my Black Watch Pendleton blanket nest, and take someone out for walkies, I am aware of the injustice in the universe. I can hardly wait for the weekend to come, when I will either feel better, or Mr. Friday can walk Luke the wonder dog.

In the meantime, when I am not whingeing about poor, poor pitiful me, here are some things you can use to tempt your patients to consume; things that will improve their outlook and their poor raw noses.

Tissues – be sure to stock up on boxes and boxes of the kind suffused with lotion.

Fluids – Ginger ale, orange juice, Gatorade, tea

Bendy straws

Beef broth – you too, can pretend to be on the Queen Mary, wrapped in a thick wooly cruise ship rug, reclining on a spindly teak deck chair, watching for icebergs while sipping the warm broth as supplied by the nameless (yet attentive) deck hand.

Chicken noodle soup – when Mr. Friday had the cold he went through a couple of gallons of this.

Kindle, Netflix enabled or with any recent bio of Queen Victoria; the book will outlive the cold. It took me a week of steadily plowing through one biography, and King George VI had just died, and Victoria had just turned 18. If my cold worsens and I come down with pneumonia, maybe I’ll get to the wedding to poor, dear, doomed Albert.

Snacks – forbidden childhood favorites. Utz cheese balls. Yumsters.

Ice cream – for your sore throat

Drugs – you name an OTC cold remedy that we haven’t tried. Our Go To drug seems to be NyQuil, for its reliable powers to knock you out. Thank heavens. Otherwise Luke wouldn’t get a wink of sleep at night.

Here is a recipe from our clever friends at Food52. But I think you can cheat and use a can of Campbell’s. Shhh. You didn’t hear it from me! https://food52.com/blog/1395-beef-stock

“The only way to treat the common cold is with contempt.”
William Osler

Food Friday: Biscuit Basics

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Welcome to the bright and shiny 2017! We are almost two weeks into the new year, and I notice that I am still writing 2016. Sigh. Even so, I am trying to carry on with my very simple and basic resolutions. I am not giving up yet. I have realized that as the bullet train of time speeds from the station, I am unlikely to eliminate my many character flaws, but at least I can start now to hydrate and walk more every day. Let’s keep it simple, and basic, and reasonable.

2016 was good for walking, I averaged about 5 miles a day. (Not every day. I encourage Mr. Friday to pick up the dog patrol on the weekends.) Now I want to cover a little more ground every day, and maybe pick up the pace. Although I must whine that when Luke is sniffing every blessed blade of grass, it takes forever to cover even two miles.

So, smugly, Luke the wonder dog and I are drinking more water (less Diet Coke, for me; Luke has never cared for it, he smirks) and walking a little bit further on our daily rounds. We are also trying to learn some new kitchen skills: I’d like to successfully master and memorize a few essential recipes: biscuits, bread, spaghetti carbonara, last week’s macaroni and cheese, chocolate ganache. Luke has his essential role down pat – he is the designated observer. He starts off at the edge of the room, and magically inches his way closer, unnoticed, until he is practically handing me spatulas and potholders. I can always count on him to know exactly where I want to step next. His GPS skills are uncanny.

And Luke has his own opinions about food prep. He likes it best when meat is involved, because he has faith in the practical application of Newtonian law regarding the gravitational field: i.e. there is nothing that I can drop that he won’t eat. Friday nights are his favorite, because on Friday nights we make pizza. His pleasure is doubled with the arrival of both pepperoni and grated cheese tumbling off the cutting board, and at his feet, no less.

Luke is a patient dog. He’ll watch even when the pickings are slim. He isn’t too excited about my latest urge to become a practiced and intuitive baker of biscuits. (I want people to say admiringly, behind my back, of course, “She has such a deft hand at biscuits. Light and airy. Deelish!”)

Luke doesn’t appreciate the significance of baking a good biscuit – do we roll or drop? Do we knead? Buttermilk or self-rising flour? Flaky or crumbly? Squares or circles? Brush with butter or milk? Biscuick or scratch? Butter or lard? Luke does like the end result, though. Particularly if bacon or sausages are involved. Just give him a biscuit, damn it.

I tried this recipe last weekend, and for the first time I have baked biscuits with layers. Well, not counting those flaky Pillsbury biscuits in the can that we had been known to serve, on occasion, just once or twice, when we lived with the eating machine known as The Tall One. Now, with this basic biscuit recipe from the New York Times, I can home bake layered biscuits, that are rolled out, and that rise beautifully. I brushed the tops with some melted butter, and scattered a generous handful of Maldon salt over the tops, too. Crunchy. Yumsters. http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/5997-basic-biscuits

The Tall One likes this recipe for biscuits. He is a serious eater, so I would listen to him if I were you. It requires more scientific precision than I can muster on a Sunday morning, though. I prefer to think that eventually I will memorize the other recipe so I can whip up a batch of biscuits without needing to look at the recipe. Maybe in 2018.

Flaky Biscuits by Michael Ruhlman

9 ounces flour (a scant 2 cups)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 ounces chilled butter, diced
6 ounces milk

Set a mixing bowl on a scale and pour out the flour. Add the baking powder (pressed through a strainer if it’s pebbly) and salt. Weigh out the butter. Rub and pinch the butter into the flour so that the butter is well distributed and in fragments and small chunks, the largest of which are not bigger than peas. Pour in 6 ounces of milk and combine just until a dough is formed (you will see distinct whole chunks of butter in the dough). Form into a 4-inch-by-6-inch rectangle, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Unwrap the dough and dust it with flour. Roll out the dough to about three times its size on a floured counter, board, or plastic wrap, maintaining the rectangular shape. Fold it into thirds and roll it out again (it will be more resistant and springy now). Fold it in thirds again, press it down firmly, wrap it in the plastic wrap, and refrigerate it for at least an hour or until thoroughly chilled. Repeat the procedure again. The dough is now ready to be rolled out to 1/2 inch thick and cut, or it can be folded in thirds, refrigerated, and rolled out again one more time for a total of six folds, or turns.

Cut the dough into squares or, if you like, into rounds with a ring cutter or a glass. Bake at 350°F/177°C until done, 20 to 30 minutes.

ruhlman.com/2013/02/biscuit-recipe-and-ratio/

The Pioneer Woman has a great Buttermilk Biscuit recipe, with self-rising flour and homemade buttermilk, and lots of butter. You need to admire her excesses! Fabulous. http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/self-rising-biscuits/

Luke and I are going out to cop another couple of miles to justify all that butter.

“Hope makes a good breakfast. Eat plenty of it.”
― Ian Fleming

Beekeeping? Classes Start Soon

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Want to learn about Beekeeping? Beekeeping classes begin Thursday, January 26th at 6:30 at the Washington College Library, in the Sophie Kerr Room. Please contact: Mike Embry at 410-924-0028 or by email: mecharjew@yahoo.com.

Become a Master Gardener

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Registration is now open for the 2017 Kent and Queen Anne’s County Master Gardener training. For anyone who would like to learn more about the environment, about gardening (both ornamental and vegetable) and who is interested in being involved in their community, this is the class to take.

The 9-week course will be held on Thursday evenings (5:30-8:30pm) and Saturday mornings (9am until noon) at Chesapeake College. Classes start on February 16th and end on April 15th.

The training covers topics such as ecology, botany, soils, propagation, pest and disease management, pruning, composting, growing fruits and vegetables, ornamental plants, weeds, alternatives to turf grass, invasive species, wetlands, wildlife, landscape design for the health of the Chesapeake Bay and much more. All classes are taught by professionals or professors from the University of Maryland. The cost of the program is $200 which includes handouts and the Maryland Master Gardener Handbook.

Upon completion of the course, trainees are asked to fulfil 40 hours of volunteer work in order to become a Master Gardener. “This may seem like a bit of a daunting task,” says Master Gardener Sabine Harvey. “However, we have so many projects lined up, that it is usually pretty easy to gather those 40 hours.” As an example, trainees can help at plant clinics, special event such the annual seed swap or tomato tasting event, they can help maintain demonstration gardens, work with schools or get involved in the Bay-wise program. In addition, current Master Gardeners will happily serve as mentors for the newly minted trainees.

For more information about the Maryland Master Gardener Program in general, please visit: http://extension.umd.edu/mastergardener/about-maryland-master-gardener-program

To register for the upcoming training please visit: http://extension.umd.edu/kent-county/horticulturegardening/become-master-gardener or contact Sabine Harvey, Horticulture Program Assistant, sharvey1@umd.edu, 410-778-1661

The University of Maryland is an Equal Opportunity Employer and Equal Access Programs.

Adkins Arboretum Offers 2017 Botanical Art Series

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Adkins Arboretum has announced a series of botanical art programs taught by artists Lee D’Zmura and Kelly Sverduk. Ranging from drawing to painting to working with colored pencil, the series engages beginning to experienced artists in capturing the natural world. Programs include:

Botanical Art: Watercolor I
Fri., Jan. 20 and 27, Feb. 3 and 10, 10 a.m.–1 p.m.
Watercolor is the traditional medium used in creating botanical art. This program taught by Kelly Sverduk will focus on introducing basic watercolor techniques and color mixing using a limited palette. Class exercises and projects will provide participants with a fundamental understanding and mastery of those techniques.

Botanical Art: Watercolor II
Fri., March 3, 10, 17 and 24, 10 a.m.–1 p.m.
Kelly Sverduk will walk students through the process of completing a botanical painting using the techniques introduced in previous classes. Students will prepare a graphite study and then transform the drawing into a watercolor painting. Emphasis will be placed on composition, color mixing and watercolor.

Advanced Graphite
Fri., April 14, 21 and 28, 9:30 a.m.–1 p.m.
Join Lee D’Zmura to improve your drawing skills. Working with your choice of subject, you’ll compete a botanical piece in pencil. Each class with include new techniques and individual critiques.

Advanced Painting Workshop: Paw Paw Flower
Fri., May 19 and 26, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
Paint a branch and bloom from one of the Arboretum’s paw paw trees in this workshop taught by Kelly Sverduk. Instruction will focus on drawing, watercolor work and detail work of flower and leaves.

Butterflies and Insects Workshop
Fri., Sept. 8, 9:30 a.m.–3 p.m.
This program taught by Lee D’Zmura introduces the techniques used to document a preserved butterfly or insect specimen. Each participant will receive an insect, draft a detailed drawing of that insect and complete the colored pencil study on Mylar film.

Paw Paw Fruit Workshop
Fri., Sept. 29, 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m.
Discover and paint a native fruit found on the Arboretum grounds. Join Kelly Sverduk to create a small botanical watercolor painting of this interesting and little-known fruit.

Advanced Painting Workshop: Host Plant
Fri. and Sat, Oct. 6 and 7, 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m.
This course taught by Kelly Sverduk will focus on the relationship between native pollinators and their host plants. Participants will create detailed drawings of their chosen subjects and then bring those drawings to life in watercolor.

D’Zmura is an award-winning botanical artist whose experience as a landscape architect enriches her watercolors. She received her certificate in botanical art from the Brookside Gardens School of Botanical Art and Illustration. Her work is in collections throughout the country. She maintains a studio in St. Michaels, where she draws inspiration from her neighbors’ gardens and from the Eastern Shore’s native wildflowers.

Sverduk specializes in watercolor and is passionate about making and teaching art. With a background in both art and natural sciences, she finds the field of botanical illustration to be a perfect combination of her interests. She holds a BA in studio art from Messiah College and a certificate in botanical art form the Brookside Gardens School of Botanical Art and Illustration. She lives with her family in Greenwood, Del.

Program fees vary, and advance registration is required. Register at adkinsarboretum.org or call 410.634.2847, ext. 0.

Adkins Arboretum is a 400-acre native garden and preserve at the headwaters of the Tuckahoe Creek in Caroline County. Open year round, the Arboretum offers educational programs for all ages about nature and gardening. For more information, visit adkinsarboretum.org or call 410-634-2847, ext. 0.

Food Friday: Extra Cheesy

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Yes, I know we should all still be attempting to better ourselves and brighten the corners where we lurk, but we are about to get some snow, and I am switching into feral animal mode. I want to be warm and cosy, and not venture out into the cold. The last thing we need is a trip to the grocery store on slippery roads, when we could be curled up with our new Christmas books, or binge watching The Crown. We need lots of hot, gooey, creamy cheese.

Mr. Friday and I do not normally believe in kismet, because, for one thing, why haven’t we won the lottery by now? And we don’t venture far from home often, but after Christmas we took a little road trip to Raleigh, North Carolina. We probably should have been following in the footsteps of the great eater and food writer Calvin Trillin, tracking down some obscure, yet magical, backwoods barbecue, known only to the discerning and deserving. Instead we stumbled into one of Ashley Christensen’s restaurants, and were converted.

We had just read a recipe in The Wall Street Journal for the Macaroni au Gratin which Christensen prepares in her restaurant Poole’s Diner in Raleigh. Sadly, Poole’s Diner isn’t open at lunch, when we were hungrily roaming the downtown streets. We found Beasley’s Chicken + Honey, another of Christensen’s food emporia, and managed to grab a couple of stools at the crowded bar. We then devoured some fantastic fried chicken. Mr. Friday ate a quarter of a fried chicken, with a side of creamed collard greens, and I had a fried chicken biscuit, drizzled with honey and mustard, and topped with slices of pickled tomato. And since I was not driving, I managed to enjoy a rather tasty IPA. The bartender was charming. The hand lettering on the chalkboard menu was stylish. The crowd was neatly hip. The tattoos were multitudinous. And we fit in. Kismet.

Later this summer Food Friday will attempt one of the Poole’s Diner Cookbook’s fried chicken recipes. Right now we are concerned with winter comforts. We made the Macaroni au Gratin last weekend for a main dinner dish, and had the leftovers for a side dish Tuesday night. Yumsters, both times. And with a winter storm approaching, I am going to stock up.

I think the key to this dish is the cream. When I first learned how to cook macaroni and cheese in junior high school (when I wore an embarrassingly un-hip, rick-racked apron that I had sewn in Home Ec the previous year) we started macaroni and cheese off with a Bechamel sauce. Nonsense. Lumpy, flour-y, anything but indulgent creamy goodness. Go for the gusto – go for the cream. And be sure to use the best cheese you can find. I had to look up the Grana Padano called for in the recipe, and wound up using a nicely aged, hard Parmigiano-Reggiano. (I shudder now to think of all the chemical-laden boxes of Velveeta Mac & Cheese I served to the Tall One and the Pouting Princess every Monday night for their entire childhoods…)

Thrill factor: There are an enjoyable couple of moments when the macaroni au gratin is positioned briefly under the broiler. Fire! Melting cheese! Danger! Browning cheese! Sizzle! Hiss! Such is our level of enjoyment that you can see why we think it is practically a wizarding triumph for us to walk through the doors of a restaurant recently mentioned in The Wall Street Journal. I think after the snow this weekend we will have to get out more.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/ashley-christensens-recipe-for-macaroni-au-gratin-1482418450

We bought a copy of the Poole’s Diner Cookbook, and you should, too. It will keep you from going off the rails with nonsensical New Year’s resolutions.

It probably goes to show that kismet really isn’t about having any degree of cool, but being hungry in the right place and time. And if you find yourself in Raleigh, visit any of the Christensen restaurants, and I am sure you will fulfill your own personal destiny: Poole’s Diner, Beasley’s, Bridge Club, Chuck’s, Death & Taxes, Fox Liquor Bar, and Joule Coffee & Table.

Here are some other recipes from the New York Times for mac and cheese, but I think you should give the Christensen recipe a try. After all, they go through 10,000 pounds of cheese a year – they know what they are talking about. And she won the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southeast in 2014.

http://gardenandgun.com/article/poole%E2%80%99s-diner-mac-and-cheese-recipe

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.”
-Neil Gaiman

Food Friday: Foolproof for the Holidays!

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Are you ready for the weekend? Hanukkah, Christmas, parties, church, temple, relatives, nosy neighbors. They are all banding together to cause a seismic event that we haven’t seen for, oh, almost a year. Don’t take the easy route and guzzle the cheap white wine; I can assure you that you will regret that decision. Instead, plan ahead and arrive with armfuls of the simplest of treats. Just don’t tell anyone how easy they were to prepare. You are sworn to the Spy’s Test Kitchen’s Oath. Peace on earth, good food for all.

‘Tis the season! The famous test kitchens at Spy World Headquarters have been a veritable beehive of activity this week. There was a flash mob of publishers, editors and artists flinging flour, dropping cookie sheets, confusing baking soda with baking powder all in the name of research. We have been debating Christmas cookies and holiday treats of every variety – particularly those that we remember from childhood. We’ve gone through quite few glasses of milk testing these recipes, because we want to be sure you have only the very best to leave out for Santa this year. Don’t forget the carrots for the reindeer! Organic, please.

I am trying to simplify this year, as I say at the beginning of each Christmas season, and very shortly thereafter we are generally wading through my complications. My usual baking assistants have flown the coop, and editors and publishers are a mercurial lot. And writers? They just want to taste the results and protect their sources. After the initial taste testing, all of the support staff evaporated! I did not have any extra hands to set up an assembly line mixing dough, rolling the dough, cutting cookies, baking, cooling and decorating enough cookies for general distribution. The thought of doing it alone was just exhausting! So in the end, this year we will bake luscious bars, which are generally simple, satisfying and completely sinful. Even the cranky research chief will like these.

I always do fudge for the neighborhood, which I love it because it tastes deceptively dense and complicated, as if I had stood for hours over my warm Aga, with a fistful of exotic free-market cocoa beans, brandishing my trusty candy thermometer. I am sorry to disappoint, but this is the easiest recipe I know that requires more than peanut butter, a knife and a couple of slices of bread.

Foolproof Fudge
3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (14 ounce) can Sweetened Condensed Milk (DO NOT USE EVAPORATED MILK!!!)
Dash of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Line 9” x 9” pan with parchment paper

Melt the chocolate chips with the sweetened condensed milk and salt in heavy
saucepan. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Spread evenly in the pan.
Walk away. You can chill it for a couple of hours – I do not suggest cutting it until it is
quite cool and firm. Last year I jazzed it up with some rum-infused vanilla, and
our true blue letter carrier, Ron, mentioned especially how much he had enjoyed
this year’s batch. So you can probably experiment a little bit with other liqueur
flavors.

Millionaire’s Shortbread
Our friends at food52 have a recipe for Millionaire’s Shortbread which sounds divine. Mr. Friday and the Tall One spent some time gamboling around the hiking trails of Scotland, and developed a predilection for genuine Scottish shortbread. Wait until they try some home-baked, with generous lashings of chocolate and caramel.

http://food52.com/recipes/6932_millionnaires_shortbread

Secret Family Recipe Brownies

My mother never used cake mixes; they offended her New England sensibilities. She would never have considered Ghiradelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix, although I can assure you, it is a very fine product; many a box has migrated through our kitchen. When I was growing up my mother baked brownies made from scratch, and they were equally delish. These were from my grandmother’s secret family recipe, written down on a faded and thumb-printed index card. It was a family treasure, kept in a little wooden box in the pantry. A secret family recipe? Ha! Like most family secrets this was life-altering in its cunning and simple deceit – our Secret Family Recipe was pretty much word for word the recipe on the back of the Baker’s Secret Chocolate box! Except that we left out the nuts.

Helen Foley’s Secret Family Brownie Recipe
4 squares Baker’s unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup butter or margarine
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
Heat oven to 350°F.
Line a 9” x 9 pan with parchment paper.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with fudge-y crumbs. (Do not over bake.) Cool completely.
http://www.kraftrecipes.com/recipes/bakers-one-bowl-brownies-54515.aspx

Happy Holidays!

“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.”
― Laura Ingalls Wilder

Cheers: Beer Sampling Approved at Saturday Market

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Yes, frothy brew samples will now be allowed at Saturday Market. And growlers for sale.

Monday’s short town council meeting voted unanimously to allow Bull and Goat Brewery to offer free samples of their Centreville brewed beer at Chestertown’s Saturday Market pending a review of all necessary licensing.

The brewery, which already has a presence in Chestertown at Cassinelli Distilling on High St. will dispense one free oz. samples of their craft beer to anyone 21 and over while offering refillable growlers. A refrigerated cart will be used as a sampling station.

More about Bull and Goat Brewery may be found on their Facebook page here.

This video is approximately 3 minutes in length.

*Factoid: “The term likely dates from the late 19th century when fresh beer was carried from the local pub to one’s home by means of a small, galvanized pail. It is claimed the sound that the carbon dioxide made when it escaped from the lid as the beer sloshed around sounded like a growl.” Wikipedia

Spy Notes: Can a Model for Chestertown and Washington College be Found in Kentucky Coal Country?

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With a headline reading, “This Tiny College Town is the Epicenter of a Food Revolution…,” it didn’t take long for the Spy to check out a recent article of Fast Company on the remarkable story of Berea College and its bold investment in local Food.  We recommend Chestertown take note.

“On a bright August morning in Berea, Kentucky, Herb & Willow, a tranquil coffee shop and local arts market, is sunny and quiet. From behind the counter, Senora Childers, 25, chats with Jesse Fowler, 22, who sits drinking cold brew and bopping his baby nephew on his knee. The shop is delightfully crammed with for-sale pottery, tinctures, jewelry, and other handcrafted creations. Owner and ceramics artist Tricia Taylor, 24, opened the space in December to promote the work of her and her friends, a younger crowd that didn’t feel at home in Berea’s longstanding traditional folk-art scene.

Taylor, who developed her business through a local artist-specific business accelerator, was also passionate about serving local food and drinks: From the croissants and scones by nearby Clementine’s Bake Shop to the Ale-8-One soda (aka “Kentucky swamp water”) that’s been bottled in the state since 1926, Herb & Willow is a testament to how easy it can be to eat and drink locally in Appalachia these days.”

For the rest of the story, please go here