Tag Archives: food

Beach Plum Adventure

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As I’ve mentioned before, I’m slowly trying to learn more wild, edible plants.  I like discovering treasures and, like shopping for antiques and visiting thrift stores, foraging for wild food feels like finding treasures.  Last year I learned how to identify beach plums.  We have a lot of bushes that grow right by the boardwalk of one of the local beaches, so they are easy to find and pick.  Also, most beachgoers don’t seem to know about them, so they aren’t all picked over.

This year, I felt confident about finding beach plums (Maybe a little overconfident, as I’ve picked a number of underripe ones, which tend to be extremely sour.  I guess you learn more each year, right?).  Jam still seems like slightly too much work (although I hope to try it again someday–my first attempt was unsuccessful), so I decided to try something else.  To me, beach plums look a lot like cherries.  Check it out.  Here is a picture of ripe beach plums:

Beach Plum Adventure with Pattern and Branch

So, I thought maybe, just once, I would pick a bunch, pit them, and make a pie using a cherry pie recipe.  I reasoned that since cherry pies use sour cherries, and beach plums look like cherries and are somewhat sour, it might be a match.  Now, I have to tell you, that I have never tasted a newly picked sour cherry to my knowledge.  The taste of beach plums, though, is sort of like a cranberry.

What do you think?  Was it a good idea?  I’ll show you what I did in pictures, but first, here is a picture of unripe beach plums, so you’ll know in case you ever find them in your area.

Beach Plum Adventure with Pattern and Branch And lastly, before we get to pie, here’s a size reference:

Beach Plum Adventure with Pattern and BranchNow, to pie!  My little helpers and I picked three small buckets full of beach plums.

Beach Plum Adventure with Pattern and Branch We took them home and rinsed them off, and then I went to work pitting them.  I used this cherry pitting tool made by OXO to get it done.  I definitely recommend it–works for olives, too, supposedly.

Beach Plum Adventure with Pattern and BranchMany episodes of “Duck Dynasty” later, I had six cups of pitted beach plums for my pie.  I used a recipe titled “Our Favorite Cherry Pie” from one of my go-to cookbooks, King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking

Beach Plum Pie with Pattern and Branch

Beach Plum Pie with Pattern and Branch

Beach Plum Pie with Pattern and Branch

Beach Plum Pie with Pattern and Branch

Beach Plum Pie with Pattern and Branch

The finished pie had a crumb topping (plus the whipped cream topping that we added).  So what do you think it tasted like?

Well…it was SOUR.  Ha!  Once you got used to the contrast of the sour filling with the sweet crumb topping and the sweet whipped cream, it was pretty good, but initially, it was a shocker.  I fed it to a bunch of hungry college students, and they voted that it was good.  I thought at first that it was a failure, but everyone liked it, so it turned out to be a surprising success.  Hooray!  Maybe next year I’ll try jam.  🙂

Happy Independence Day!

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Happy Independence Day to everyone in the U.S!  When I was growing up, my Mom always made us wear red, white, and blue for July 4.  We’re all decked out in red, white, and blue at our house today.  Here’s an up-close shot of my patriotic garb:

Independence Day!

Shorts: J.Crew; Shirt: Diesel–thrifted (yes!)

We’re also getting into the spirit with our food.  We tried this recipe and came up with these chocolate covered pretzels.  I think I would use white chocolate as my main chocolate if I did this again, but nevertheless, they are good and easy to make.

Indpendence Day!

I think we also need some late strawberries.  Aren’t these gorgeous?

Independence Day!

If you plan on relaxing at all this weekend, here’s some reading for you:

  • Have you ever looked at Susan Branch’s cookbooks?  A friend just recommended her work, so I’m looking at The Summer Book, which is filled with recipes, gardening tips, and more all illustrated with colorful watercolor paintings.
  • A walk in the woods is always more fun with a foraging book in hand.  The best I’ve found are by Samuel Thayer, who wrote The Forager’s Harvest and Nature’s Garden.
  • Want a fast-paced and interesting adventure book?  Leepike Ridge by N.D. Wilson may be aimed at a middle reader/young adult audience, but it’s good enough that even older readers will enjoy it.
  • Finally, if you’ve ever dreamed of two of your heroes joining forces, you’ll know how I felt when I heard about Craft South and Fashion by HandAnna Maria Horner + Natalie Chanin of Alabama Chanin teaching a workshop together?  Sounds like creative heaven.  If you go, report back!

 

Have a great weekend!

A Weekend Project and a Weekend Recipe

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It’s time to take a break from sewing (and reading about and thinking about sewing, which I often do more than any actual sewing) and do a necessary project.  Here’s what’s on my weekend to-do list:

Weekend Project (Pattern and Branch)

Weekend Project (Pattern and Branch)

These guys need a little TLC.  Chair #1 is from a couple of Brimfields ago.  Sad, but true.  The green one I got at a local flea market and redid, but since it’s been sitting on our deck for a few years, it’s started to develop new rust spots.  I’m hoping to find a cool color of spray paint to give these guys some new life.

Secondly, I have a recipe (sadly undocumented in photos) that I developed just for you.  I made it up for a picnic we went to last month, and it went over well.  If you need a good picnic dinner, give this a try.

Sunny Day Picnic Salad

makes about 13(ish) servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound baby potatoes, quartered
  • 1 Vidalia onion, chopped
  • cooking spray
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 pound of rotisserie chicken, deboned (or chicken of your choice)
  • 6 ears of corn, cooked, corn cut off the cob (or about 4 cups of corn kernels, cooked)
  • 4 stalks of celery, sliced crosswise
  • 3 packages of Ramen noodles without the seasoning, cooked and cut up with scissors until the noodles seem like a manageable size
  • 4 carrots, peeled and grated or processed in a food processor
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Lawry’s Seasoned Salt

Instructions

This salad is easy to put together little by little over time.  So, feel free to do the steps in a different order or do a step and put the salad in the refrigerator until you have time to do another step.

  1. Boil your potatoes for 5 minutes, drain, and put into a large bowl.  You’ll use this bowl to mix and store the salad, so make sure it’s a pretty big one.
  2. Coat a medium skillet (cast iron works great, but isn’t essential) with cooking spray and cook the garlic and onions over medium/medium-high heat until they are softened, adding more cooking spray as necessary.  Cook for less time if you like them barely softened and longer if you like them really soft.  I opted for really soft, and let them cook while I did other prep.  Stir occasionally.  When they are finished, add them to the bowl with the potatoes.
  3. Add in all of your other ingredients and stir, stir, stir until it’s all mixed up.  Don’t forget to do a taste test of see if the seasonings seem right to you.
  4. Enjoy!

Everyone I served this to really liked it and went back for seconds.  I should have picked an actual serving size–one cup would have been good.  So, the number servings may be slightly off.  If you try it and get an exact number of servings, I would love to hear about it.

I hope you have a great weekend.  The weather looks to be good here.  I’m thinking up some fun projects and excursions for the summer, so stay tuned!

 

Field Trip (and a Recipe!): The Friendly Toast

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Today I want to introduce you to a fun and funky restaurant in Portsmouth, NH:  The Friendly Toast.

Field Trip:  The Friendly Toast with Pattern and Branch

I can’t remember how we discovered The Friendly Toast, whether through a recommendation or by stumbling upon it, but it has become a favorite.  We’ve also visited the Cambridge, MA branch, but the Portsmouth incarnation is the one we’ve come to love the most.

The food choices are really creative, as are the drink options.  Today, I ordered Green Eggs and Ham, which was a slice of anadama bread with ham and two poached eggs on top, covered with a creamy herb sauce and served with home fries.  I’m also always tempted by the coconut pancakes which include cashews, shredded coconut, chocolate chips, and a coconut sauce on top.  We’ve even incorporated meals we’ve had there into our own home rotation (see the end of the post for the recipe we came up with).

The food is good, but that’s not the only thing we love about The Friendly Toast.  It has a really eclectic, kitschy, vintage feel to it.  All those crazy signs and oddments you find at antique stores, flea markets, and garage sales?  I think most of them have ended up here.

Field Trip:  The Friendly Toast with Pattern and Branch

Looking for a doll flying a helicopter? Too late–The Friendly Toast got to it first!

The Cambridge branch has the same sort of décor, but it feels a bit more planned out.  You can never feel bored here, because there is so much to look at.  I also find the people that you see at the restaurant very interesting.  It’s an amazing conglomeration of young families, older families, tattooed vintage-lovers, hipsters, baby boomers, and everything in between.  There aren’t many places that appeal to such a wide array of people.

Field Trip: The Friendly Toast with Pattern and Branch

If you ever get the chance to go, may I also recommend buying a loaf of bread?  We nearly always come home with a loaf of their Cayenne Cheddar Bread (but their Anadama is pretty great, too, and it’s a New England favorite).

Field Trip:  The Friendly Toast with Pattern and Branch

Field Trip:  The Friendly Toast with Pattern and Branch

I’ll leave you with our version of a special we once tried at the restaurant:  New England Poutine.  Of course, it’s not quite as good as the original, but it’s close enough to be incorporated as one of our favorites.

New England Poutine (or our best guess)

makes more than four servings (I can’t quite remember how many we got out of it…How big is your appetite?)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lbs. thin sweet potato fries (not steak fries), frozen, or about two large sweet potatoes*
  • 1 1/2 lbs. thin-sliced potatoes (like shoestring potatoes or small-diced homefries), frozen, or about six small potatoes*
  • 2-15 oz. cans of corned beef hash
  • 8 oz. medium/sharp white cheddar cheese cut into cubes
  • hollandaise sauce (This link takes you to the recipe we use for Blender Hollandaise Sauce–nice, neat, and not too tricky.)
  • 1 bunch of scallions, sliced
  • toast (something like a Cheddar Cayenne or Italian Herb is good, but plain will also work well)

*If buying frozen sweet potato and potato products, see if you can find packages with similar cook times and temperatures.

Directions:

  1. Cook your sweet potato and regular potato fries according to package instructions or at 450 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until done, stirring once.
  2. Meanwhile, warm your corned beef hash over medium heat in a frying pan on the stove, stirring occasionally.
  3. At this point, prep your Hollandaise as much as you are able to, leaving the final steps undone.  If that feels like too much, do the Hollandaise after step 6.
  4. When your potatoes are cooked, plate them according to how much you think each person will eat, putting just a little less than you think they will want on each plate (there is more to add to this plate, so trust me on this).
  5. Next, cover the potatoes with corned beef hash, again just a little less than you might think.
  6. Top this with some chunks of cheese.
  7. Now finish up your hollandaise and pour some over  your potatoes and hash.
  8. Finally, garnish with scallions and serve with the toast of your choice!

Hope you enjoy this recipe.  Now even if you can’t get to the Friendly Toast, you can pretend you’re are eating there.

Hot Chocolate: A Winter Staple

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Hot chocolate has been a winter staple in our house as far back as I can remember.  My Mom had a recipe she got from a cookbook called House Specialties.  (I’m guessing this is the author’s web page, but I’m not certain.  Looks like the book may be out of print.)  Over the years, she tweaked it until it became her own.

Hot Chocolate recipe from Pattern and Branch

Not only did that hot chocolate recipe warm my winters at home, it carried my roommate and me through college and became famous among my friends.  When I got married, my Mom passed the recipe along to me, and I did my own tweaking until it became my recipe.  Our kids and frequent guests have come to love it.  I thought I’d share it with you so you can make it your own, too.

Hot Chocolate Mix

Ingredients:

Note that these are not hard and fast measurements.  I’ve adjusted them to the amounts I find at the grocery store, so feel free to do the same.

  • 30 ounces instant chocolate (like Nestle Quick, Ovaltine, or a store brand chocolate milk mix)
  • 10 quarts non-fat dry milk powder (the actual net weight of the dry milk powder is 32 ounces, but you can typically buy a box that makes 10 quarts of milk if you add water)
  • 15 ounces non-dairy creamer (I recommend vanilla flavored creamer)
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Instructions:

Mix all ingredients in a huge bowl.  Store in a large container (I use a 23 c. (about 5 1/2 L) plastic container, but have also used zip top plastic bags and large plastic pretzel containers.

To serve:

Mix 3-4 heaping tablespoons in 6-8 ounces of hot water.  If you want to try some great add-ins, I recommend any of these, or a combination:  half and half, cream, flavored creamer, flavored syrup (I like peppermint.), candy canes or peppermints, marshmallows.

Other information:

This makes about 87 ounces (5 1/2 pounds).  A heaping tablespoon of this mix is about 1/2 ounce.

This is a great recipe to change up according to your own tastes.  If you try it and come up with some favorite new recipes, I’d love to hear about them!

Try Something New: Lapsang Souchong Tea

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Try Something New:  Lapsang Souchong Tea

Have you ever tried smoky tea of any sort?  Sometimes I’ve seen it called Lapsang souchong or Russian Caravan (a slightly milder version).  Often you can find it in grocery stores as Hu Kwa.

Try something new:  Lapsang Souchong tea

 

If you’ve never tried it before, I recommend trying a cup of it before you buy a whole tin.  I discovered it in college, and learned to love it, especially in the fall and winter.  It smells like a camp fire because the leaves are smoke-dried over a pine fire, but tastes a little different.  It’s a black tea, so you’ll want to steep it for five minutes in boiling water.  I never have it with milk or sugar, but if you do, and you like it, I’d love to hear about it.

Have you ever tried smoky tea?  Do you like it?  Any other tea recommendations?

Field Trip: Marty’s Donutland

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Field Trip: Marty’s Donutland

If you’ve ever travelled to New England, you know of the ubiquity of that mecca of doughnuts and coffee:  Dunkin’ Donuts.  It’s great.  I love Dunkin’ Donuts–great coffee, doughnuts, muffins, etc. etc. etc.  Even growing up, not living in New England (for the most part), when we got doughnuts, that’s where we went.

I never really thought about OTHER doughnut places.  But somehow, at some point, I discovered Marty’s.

Marty's Donut Land in Ipswich, MA

 

Marty’s is the opposite of flashy.  It’s got the wood panelling of a few decades ago and is populated with townies sitting on bar stools passing the time of day, drinking coffee, and eating large doughnuts.  It took a few trips, but eventually I was won over.  For less than a dollar, you can get a delicious, filling, wonderful doughnut.  You never know exactly which ones they’ll have that day, but it’s never hard to find a good one.  My current favorites are chocolate coconut and chocolate butter crunch.  I have to recommend their Boston Creams, too.  One of those doughnuts can just about get me through breakfast and lunch.

Marty's Donut Land in Ipswich, MA

Really, though, part of the allure is that Marty’s feels like an enclave of “townieness”.  I didn’t grow up in a small town, so I find them fascinating, especially those little spots where you feel like you entered the inner-workings of the place.  Despite that, Marty’s isn’t only for townies.  It’s also got a pretty good college following due to its unusual hours.  They open at midnight when someone comes in to make the doughnuts and stay open until about noon or a little before.

Also, they have the coolest mixer I’ve ever seen.  I don’t think this picture does it justice, but maybe you can get a glimpse of it anyway.  See it over there on the right?

Marty's Donut Land in Ipswich, MA

 

Now that I have discovered the true wonderfulness of this hidden gem, I’ve gone to Marty’s for doughnuts for Sunday morning breakfast, fuel for road trips long and short, and the “baked goods” I was supposed to bake myself, but ran out of steam for.  And actually, bringing doughnuts from Marty’s gets me at least as many compliments (but usually more) than when I bake things myself.  They’re just THAT good.  Unfortunately, there’s no cookbook to tell you how to make these doughnuts.  If you are on Boston’s North Shore, you’ll just have to come in and experience them for yourself.

Marty’s Donut Land, 8 Central Street (Rt. 1A), Ipswich, MA 01938

978-356-4580

Hours:  midnight to ??? (about noon or a little before, usually)

Sad, Sad Update:

After decades as a town institution in Ipswich, Marty’s closed last week.  One of their employees wrote to tell me the terrible news (thanks, Koda), which I had heard rumors of, but hadn’t confirmed.  What will Ipswich, Gordon College students, and other doughnut-lovers in the area do now?  We’ll have to wait and see.  Thanks for nearly 60 delicious years of doughnuts, Marty’s.  We’ll miss you.

Field Trip: A&J King Bakery in Salem, MA

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Field Trip:  A&J King Bakery in Salem, MA

This morning, I woke up feeling excited.  Forswearing an early breakfast, I saved my appetite for something much more special than my normal fare.  Today was the day to go on a field trip to one of the best hidden gems in all of Boston’s North Shore:  A&J King Bakery.

Field Trip:  A&J King Bakery in Salem, MA

Down a little side street in Salem, MA sits a culinary gallery of bread and pastry that is A&J King.  Inside there is always a steady ebb and flow of customers buying sticky buns, salted caramel cashew tarts, sour cream coffee cake, and coconut almond macaroons.  Maybe some of the customers are planning ahead for lunch or dinner, and checking out the ham and cheese croissants or some asiago chili bread.

Field Trip:  A&J King Bakery in Salem, MA

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Field Trip:  A&J King Bakery in Salem, MA

I was saving my appetite for the sticky buns.  (You know, it’s really hard to have to sample sticky buns.  I just hate it.  🙂 )

The very friendly manager, Jess, allowed me to take pictures and talked with me about their commitment to quality, simplicity, and baking from scratch.

Everything here is painstakingly made by hand.  Their adherence to these principles is easy to taste in everything they make.  The bakery is also filled with artwork, both of the bread variety and on the walls in the form of photographs and chalk drawings.

Best of all, you can now take some of the beauty and mystery of A&J King-style baking home with you.  They just came out with their first book!  I’ve had a quick peek into the book, and I can already see that it is an excellent reference for anyone wanting to learn to make bread by hand, and to do it well.

Field Trip:  A&J King Bakery in Salem, MA

After such a pleasant visit filled with good service and great food, I left loving the bakery more than ever.  Of course I didn’t leave empty-handed.  The sticky bun was long gone, but I brought home some asiago chili bread, my server’s favorite, and some anadama for tomorrow’s dinner.  If you’re in the area, check out A&J King, and even if you aren’t near Boston’s North Shore, you can still have some quality bakery goodness in your life thanks to the book.  How’s that for options?

A&J King Artisan Bakers, 48 Central Street, Salem, MA 01970

Monday-Friday: 7am-6pm, Saturday and Sunday:  7am-4pm