Saturday, October 31, 2009

Last Day for Autumn Giveaway!!

Comment by today at midnight EST on Autumn Giveaway Post for a chance to win a Yogotherm from New England Cheesemaking, complete with enough enzymes to make 70 pounds of soft cheeses.

For complete post and official rules:

Check back Sunday for winner!!!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Specialty Food News Time - Oct. 2009

It's that time of month again... news from the food industry. I am greatly encouraged by the first three articles regarding the purchase of healthier foods, less processed, cleaner foods and locally grown products! Whoo-hoo America!

About 60% of consumers are willing to pay 10% more for food products that promise to be healthier, safer or produced to higher ethical standards, and 12% of consumers would pay more than 10% for such products, according to a report by Context Marketing. Full Story

There was a 64.7% increase in new products using the words "simple" or "simply" in the product or brand name from 2005 to 2008, according to Datamonitor. Companies that offer products with the fewest number of ingredients stand to garner gains in 2010, stated Lynn Dornblaser, trends analyst at Mintel. Mintel tracked decreases this year in the average number of ingredients in 19 product categories, including dairy products and processed meats, reported USA Today. Full Story

Some 32% of adults often or always purchase locally grown products or seek out and are willing to pay more for "green" products, according to The Harris Poll. However, just 2% seek out and buy green products if they have to pay significantly more for them and only 3% claim cost does not matter, reported Convenience Store News. Full Story

For Immediate Release: News from the Specialty Food Trade
Matthew Cox from Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods, Portland, Ore., has done what no American has done before - he has claimed the coveted Golden Spurtle trophy and won the title of World Porridge Making Champion at the 16th Annual '" Golden Spurtle " World Porridge Making Championships in Scotland. Full Release Photo

Bond Laboratories, Inc. added Bill Reed Distributing LLC to its distribution network for Fusion Premium Beverages, opening distribution throughout Abilene, TX and the 12 surrounding counties. Full Story

Almost eight in 10 shoppers report looking for products on sale and comparing prices between brand name and store brands when buying groceries, according to The Checkout, a survey from Integer Group and M/A/R/C Research. About 37% of consumers believe name brands are more reliable and 39% believe name brands are better quality products. Approximately 84% think brand names are more expensive. Study participants stated that Kroger, Target and Walmart carry the best selection of private label brands and that they are most likely to buy Kraft and Coca-Cola brands over private label options. Full Story

For Immediate Release: News from the Specialty Food Trade
Under a new licensing agreement, Mellace Family Brands, a snack food producer based in Carlsbad, Calif., is partnering with Cinnabon to create a line of snacks combining Mama Mellace's kettle roasted nuts with Cinnabon's signature Makara Cinnamon. Full Release

Hardy Bottling Co. formed a contract with Apple Rush Co. Inc. to produce its Apple Rush cans for sales east of the Rocky Mountains and in the Southeast and Southwest U.S. Apple Rush produces organic 100% juice sparkling beverages and markets its products through nearly 40 distributors throughout the U.S. and in foreign markets, reported Memphis Business Journal. Full Story (Free Registration Required)

Some 86% of consumers stopped doing business with an organization after a bad customer experience, up 27% from four years ago, according to the fourth annual Customer Experience Impact Report, a Harris Interactive study sponsored by RightNow. About 82% of consumers indicated they would tell others about a bad experience, up from 67% in 2006. Many consumers that had a bad experience shared their experience online by posting a negative customer review on the company's website (23%), Facebook (7%), or a blog (6%). Full Story

Don't forget - you still have 4 days left to leave a comment on Autumn Giveaway Post for a chance to win a Yogatherm and enough supplies to make 70 lbs. of your own cheese - right at home! Tell you blogging friends - must be a follower for a chance to win!!!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Wedding and Sugar Cookie Cutouts

The Best Husband In The World and I attended a wedding this past Saturday. Thankfully, I was on the way to better health and could attend. Yeah modern medicine AKA antibiotics for a nasty sinus infection.

My nephew got married to a lovely young woman he had pursued for 8 years... she finally said yes! Making it doubly special was the fact that my dad officiated. It was very touching to see a grandfather performing the wedding ceremony for his grandson and namesake. Here is a picture of the happy couple and my dad.

It was truly a lovely wedding. The food, the flowers, the venue. But what really struck me was the character and maturity of the bride. You see she had planned an outdoor wedding ceremony. Mother Nature was not cooperating and minutes before the ceremony was about to take place, it poured. I mean really poured. No matter - the bridesmaids, flower girls, groom, best man and ushers all took their places (under umbrellas) and we cheered when the bride strode down the "aisle" in splendor under her own umbrella. The ceremony went off without a hitch and everyone high tailed it to the reception room.

You see she could have let the weather ruin her day. She CHOSE to be happy. She knew that a marriage isn't about the wedding day - but a lot of days adding up to a lifetime. They laughed, they said their vows, they kissed. They had an absolutely wonderful time and so did we.

My Mother-In-Law makes these sugar cookies every Christmas. She calls them Merry Makers and the family cannot get enough of them.

This week I'm baking and shopping and cooking in anticipation of TBHITW's brother and family's arrival on Thursday. You may remember our 10 year old nephew Shane just completed cancer treatment. Well, the whole gang is coming for a long NYC Marathon weekend. His mom and dad raised over $14k for pediatric cancer research and will be running the marathon on Sunday. We will all be in the city to cheer them on - racing for the cure and eating cookies!

Sugar Cookie Cutouts: (makes about 6 to 7 dozen depending on thickness)

3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Using a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat after each addition. Add vanilla. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add to batter in 3 additions. Stir until well combined.

Refrigerate the dough at least one hour or over night.
Roll out on a floured board until about 1/4 inch thick. Using cookie cutters, cut into desired shapes. (I'm using bats and witches and pumpkins and ghost cutters) Transfer to ungreased cookie sheet.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Bake one tray at at time in the middle of the oven for 6 to 8 minutes. Cool on racks.

Frost with vanilla frosting dyed to your color preference. Decorate as desired.

A Cook's Notes: When my kids were littles and middles I let them do the decorating. The easiest way to do this is to buy canned frosting and dye about a 1/4 of each can a different color - place in small bowls, buy some sprinkles and sugar crystals, line the table with some newspaper and let them have fun.

Don't forget, Shane will be pulling the winning name from the pumpkin on Sunday, November 1st. If you haven't commented yet on the Autumn Giveaway Post, do it now!!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Car Shopping and Parmesan Crusted Artichoke Hearts with Lemon Aioli

So... you may remember I turned in my Saab convertible. The lease was up. I had my fling.

Like all flings, it was bound to end badly. One of us had to go. Since he was young and hot, I figured there was a better chance of him getting picked up on the lot than me.

So goodbye Saab. It was real. It was fun. It was real fun.

On to car shopping.

After looking at 14 million cars at approximately 1,271 car dealers I was ready to make a decision. My decision? I decided I hated car shopping.

Really. Hate. It.

It took hours of my life that I will never get back.

Now, don't get me wrong. Every sales person in every dealership was friendly. Knowledgeable. Polite. Well trained. IT IS THE PROCESS THAT KILLS ME.

Car dealers in my area no longer put new cars on the lot. They park them inside or in back or behind or below the actual dealership. This forces the wanna be car buyer to go INSIDE the dealership to see an actual car.

Once inside you have to give your name, date of birth, official ID, marriage license, and any identifying marks such as tattoos or birth marks to the receptionist. This is so the car dealership owners can track you down if you don't buy a car that day.

Then you wait for an associate, or selling specialist, or salesperson (to the uninitiated).

If you are deemed sane and somewhat harmless (it helps if you have buckets of cash with you).. you are then allowed into the inner sanctum to look at an actual automobile.

I've learned my lesson with cars. You may love them, you may hate them - but never, never get rid of the one you have... you'll end up having to go car shopping.

Parmesan Crusted Artichoke Hearts with Lemon Aioli Dipping Sauce: (makes about 1 1/2 dozen)

1 can artichoke hearts, drained, patted dry and cut in half
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
1 egg, beaten
oil for frying

Mix the parmesan cheese, bread crumbs and parsley together in a shallow pan. Season with salt and pepper.

Dredge artichoke halves in beaten egg, then coat with bread crumb / cheese mixture. Place on a rack and allow to "dry" for about 30 minutes or refrigerate until ready to use.

Heat about 1/2 inch of oil in a frying pan. When very hot, add artichoke hearts and fry for about 2 minutes. Turn and fry other side. Drain on paper towels.

Lemon Aioli:

1 lemon, zested and juiced
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, minced

Whisk together lemon zest, juice, mayonnaise and garlic and refrigerate until ready to use.

To serve:

Serve artichoke hearts warm with aioli on the side for dipping.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Happy Hour Friday - play along

I'm getting ready to go the doctor.

No, I don't think I have the dreaded Swine (H1N1) Flu - but I do believe I have a dreaded Sinus Infection - so off I go... hopefully for a full regimen of my favorite antibiotic - my twice a year sinus infection...

While I'm killing time until my appointment I've been reading blogs. I came across Otin from Wizard of Otin and he is sponsoring Happy Hour Friday. It's easy to play, just post what you are happy about:

Here goes:

I'm happy I don't have swine flu.

I'm happy I am going to see my entiret family tomorrow at a BIG wedding (see why I'm happy I don't have swine flu)

I'm happy that my dad is officiating at the wedding of his grandson and namesake.

I'm happy my puppy turned one yesterday (sorry I didn't bake you your favorite bones, I'll do that on Sunday ... just as soon as I feel better)

I'm happy that the TBHITW and the kidadults have not caught my cold...

I'm just happy.

If you want to play head on over to Otin's spot and use Mr. Linky...

Have a great weekend everyone.

HOLLY BEAR with me at 7 weeks on her way to her new home....

Holly Bear (yesterday) at 1 year old in the yard... on her way to magnificence..

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Unthinkable Has Happened, The Kitchen is Closed

The unthinkable has happened.

The Good Cook has taken ill and the kitchen is closed.

Yup, that's right folks.

The kitchen is closed.

This Good Cook has taken off her apron and put on her sick robe.

No muffins, no bread, no donuts, cookies, cakes or dinners are coming out of this kitchen today.

The Good Cook has left the kitchen.

My head is clogged, my sinuses are aching and I can't seem to go 5 minutes without a tissue box at hand. In the name of family health and all that is holy I am not cross contaminating anything but my pillow and the TV remote.

See you all in a day or two. Until then, feel free to browse the archives and if anyone has any chicken soup, send it on over.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Women's Weekend and Pumpkin Spiced Donuts

I'm back from another semiannual Women's Wine Weekend (notice there is no H in Wine)...

As usual, a good time was had by all.

Over the years our weekend get-togethers have changed. Just like us.

This is how it should be.

We all change.

Our lives change and the circumstances surrounding our lives change.

The one thing that hasn't changed is the women.

We are a group of women from different backgrounds sharing a lifetime bond of friendship and shared memories.

We laughed, we drank wine, we toasted each other's successes and sympathized with our perceived failures. We made new memories and rehashed some old ones. We once again affirmed our connection to each other.

And of course we made plans for our next Women's Wine Weekend (notice there is no H in wine).

To all the women in my life:
I love you.
I admire you for your place in this world.
You are my strength, my idols, my sisters, my confidantes.

Is there any one woman (or more) in your life whom you just can't imagine life without?

I am making these donuts because they remind me of the women of WWW - they are sweet, a little bit spicy, and I dare only visit them about twice a year...

Pumpkin Spiced Donuts with Maple Cream Frosting: (makes about a dozen plus holes)

1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 cup pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk (if you don't have it readily available, make your own with 1/2 cup milk and 2 teaspoons vinegar - white or apple cider vinegar - let stand 5 minutes
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon each: nutmeg, allspice, ginger and cloves (or use 2 teas. pumpkin pie spice)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups flour* plus more for cutting donuts and dusting pan
vegetable oil for frying

Whisk egg and egg yolk together, then add pumpkin, sugars, buttermilk, and butter, whisking after each addition.

Stir in spices and baking powder, salt and baking soda.

Whisk in flour 1 cup at a time to form a sticky dough.

Cover and freeze for 15 minutes.

Pour about 2 inches vegetable oil in frying pan and heat to about 350 degrees.

Turn half of the donut dough out on floured board and pat out with your floured hands to about 1/2 inch thick. With floured round cookie cutter (about 3 inches) cut donuts out. Go back, and using a 1 inch round cutter, cut out holes.

Transfer with floured spatula to floured cookie sheet.

Repeat with remaining dough.

Fry for about 3-4 minuts, turning once. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Repeat with all the "holes"


While donuts are still hot:
Sugar and Cinnamon
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
Place sugar and cinnamon in a bag and shake 6 donuts and all the donut holes in bag. Do a few at a time.

Maple Cream Frosting:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
drizzle of milk
Whisk together until thick, but able to "dip" donuts in. When donuts are cool, dip the rest of the donuts into the frosting. Place donuts on a rack on top of a cookie sheet and allow to set.

Arrange all the donuts and holes on a platter and start dreaming of your next women's getaway...

A Cook's Notes: Have any of you discovered this great flour from Bob's Red Mill? Whole Wheat Pastry Flour - it acts just like white flour but packs a nutritional and fiber punch you can live with. The best part? The fussy eaters in your life won't have a clue it's whole wheat....

Don't forget to comment on the Autumn Giveaway Post for a chance to win the Yogotherm and enough cheesemaking supplies to make 70 pounds of soft cheeses - tell your blogging friends!!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Stealing and Pumpkin Ravioli with Browned Butter, Sage and Hazelnut Sauce

Our 17 year old daughter has a part time job at the local Dairy Queen.

This evening at my dinner table the following conversation took place:

15 year old son: (speaking to 17 year old daughter): So, can you?

17 year old daughter: I'll try. But maybe not.

Me: What, what can you do?

Daughter: He wants me to bring him home something from work.

Me: Like what?

Daughter: You know, ice cream or a sundae

Me: So, what's the problem.

Daughter: You know, if the manager is watching...

Holy Frozen Milk!

Me: You have to pay for anything you bring home. You realize that, right?

Daughter: well...

Me: So, after you grab some ice cream do you also grab a $20 out of the cash register?

Daughter: No, OMG - I would never do that, I would never steal.

Me: Well, taking anything that you don't pay for is stealing. Anything you bring into this house will be bought and paid for. Understood?

Wow. You just never know when a life lesson presents itself do you?

I'm off to a girl's weekend. Hopefully when I get back no one will be in jail. In the meantime, here's a great fall side dish - it's easy, quick and fits the bill on these chilly October nights.

Pumpkin Ravioli with Browned Butter, Sage and Hazelnut Sauce (makes 3 dozen)

1 large white potato
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 to 2 tablespoon milk or cream
1 15 oz can pumpkin, divided in half (reserve other half for other use)
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
pinch nutmeg
salt and pepper
1 package wonton wrappers

Microwave the potato for 4 to 5 minutes until soft. Remove from skin and place in a medium bowl.
Add butter, cream, sage, dash of salt, dash of pepper, nutmeg and cream.
Add pumpkin and mix well.

Lay about 8 wonton wrappers out on a clean counter. Place about 1/2 tablespoon of filling in center of each wrapper.
Brush edges of wrapper with water and place another wonton wrapper on top.
Press to remove any air and to seal
You an use a round cutter and cut the ravioli into rounds or leave in a square.

I like LESS wonton and more filling so I cut mine.
Repeat until you use all the filling.

Lay the ravioli out on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper or parchment and dusted with a bit of flour.
Do not stack!!!

Refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.

Heat a large pot of boiling, salted water.
Add ravioli, one at a time and boil until done. About 2 to 3 minutes. Ravioli's will float.

1 stick unsalted butter
7 to 8 sage leaves, torn in half if large
1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted* and rough chopped (walnuts are great too!)

Melt 1 stick of unsalted butter in a large saute pan. Add sage leaves and turn up the heat so that butter slightly browns.
Add nuts and stir to coat.
Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of ravioli cooking water to saute pan and stir.
Using a slotted spoon, gently transfer ravioli to saute pan and gently toss to coat.
Serve immediately.

A Cook's Note: to toast hazelnuts, add nuts to a dry saute pan. Over medium heat toss and stir until slightly browned and fragrant.
This is a great vegetarian meal but also makes a great side to chicken, turkey or pork.

Don't forget to comment on the Yogotherm giveaway post - you have until Midnight - October 31st.!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Autumn Give Away!!

Most of you know that The Best Husband In The World and I spent a long weekend visiting Shelburne Falls and Ashfield Massachusetts a few weeks back.

We spent our time admiring the sites, enjoying the local bistro fare, browsing an art gallery (or two) and for me, the highlight of the weekend was spending a day at New England Cheesemaking, taking a workshop in, well, cheesemaking.

While there I also took advantage of stocking up on some cheesemaking supplies. I bought a cheddar form, a new dairy thermometer and a Yogotherm or, as New England Cheesemaking calls it in their catalog, the Gourmet Home Dairy Kit. I happily carted all my supplies home with me, thereby saving shipping fees.

In case you don't know what a Yogotherm is, it is a thermos that requires no outside power, that you use to make a variety of different cheeses as well as yogurt.

Now if you've been following my blog for any time you know I like to substitute yogurt, especially Greek Style yogurt, in many of my recipes that call for sour cream or buttermilk. Using store bought milk and the Yogotherm, I can now make my own.

As well as:

Fromage Blank
Sour Cream
Creme Fraiche
Queso Blanco
Cream Cheese
Herb Cheeses
and other varieties.. the kit includes enough enzymes (and instructions) for making over 70 pounds of cheeses!

Imagine my surprise when I opened my door to find this in the mail:

Seems New England Cheesemaking had shipped me another Gourmet Home Dairy Kit. Being a good, honest Good Cook I immediately rang up Customer Service and explained their mistake. Being the good New England Cheesemaking company that they are, they acknowledged their mistake and told me to keep it - with their best regards.

To celebrate Autumn and my good luck, I am passing this extra Gourmet Home Dairy Kit (yogotherm) on to you, one of my lucky readers.

TBHITW wanted me to run a contest and have you answer two questions.

Did I mention that TBHITW bears an uncanny resemblance to this guy from The Big Bang Theory television sitcom?

Sheldon Cooper, PhD. The Big Bang Theory
The Best Husband In The World, P.G., REA - My house.
TBHITW: I know, make it a contest - to win someone has to answer these two questions correctly, 1. What is the origin of yogurt AND what is the composition and outstanding features of that country's primary Geologic Terrain?

Me: Uh. No.

To win the Yogotherm and enough goodies to make 70 pounds of various soft cheeses:

1. You must be a follower (shameless plug to get more followers and feed my need for attention)

2. Write a comment in this post's comment field telling me why you like yogurt or why you'd like to make yogurt or really, why anything...

Each comment will be placed in a pumpkin head and the winner will be drawn by my nephew, Shane, on the morning of November 1st. (midnight 10/31 is too late to stay up until)

So, hurry up. You have until Midnight, October 31st, 2009 to comment and be entered to win. Forward this post on to your friends, have them sign up as a follower and leave a comment for their chance to win.


One Prize - Yogotherm as pictured
Deadline: Midnight, October 31, 2009
Eligible: All current and new followers of
Entry: comment left on this post
Winner: Randomly drawn from Pumpkin Head on November 1st.
Notification of Winner: Will be notified by a post on November 1st. Shipping costs for mailing the Yogotherm will be paid for by The Good Cook.

I hope that covers it. Thank you to New England Cheesemaking for a great day of cheesemaking AND for supplying The Gourmet Home Dairy Kit!

Sound like fun? Comment below.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Company's Coming and Apple Cake

I dropped a fork today while emptying the dishwasher silverware basket.

According to kitchen lore dropping a fork means company's coming - specifically a woman. Dropping a knife means a man will visit. Dropping a spoon, a child.

This weekend I will be traveling to upstate New York for my biannual "Women's Wine Weekend. Notice there is no H in wine"

So maybe company's not coming to my home - but I will be in awesome women's company this weekend at Windswept Farms in Hector, NY.

To celebrate, I've been baking and cooking and planning a few menu items to take along.

You know how I love to use seasonal, local ingredients in my kitchen concoctions.

Here is my favorite Apple Cake. This cake is for my family, the next one I'll bake Thursday night and carry it with me for "company" this weekend.

This cake is dense, moist and full of fall flavor - like cinnamon, nutmeg and apples. Perfect for a chilly autumn day.

Autumn Apple Cake - serves 12

1 1/2 pounds local apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch slices – about 4 to 5 medium sized.
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg (better: a few good grinds of fresh nutmeg)

4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup warm water
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Putting it all together:

Grease and lightly flour a Bundt pan.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix the apples with the lemon juice, then toss in the sugar and cinnamon in a mixing bowl. Set aside while you make the batter.

Lightly whisk the eggs in a large mixing bowl. Add the oil, melted butter, sugar, vanilla and water and whisk until smooth. In a separate mixing bowl whisk together the flour, salt, cinnamon and baking powder. Gradually stir the flour mixture into the wet mixture and stir just until combined. Pour 1/4 of the batter into the pan, and then arrange a 1/3 of the apples around the top of the batter. Repeat 2 more times: apples, batter, apples, batter. Top off with the last of the batter and smooth.

Place the Bundt pan on a rimmed cookie sheet (just in case of leakage) Bake about 1 hour 15 minutes, until a sharp knife inserted in the middle of the cake comes out dry.

A Cook's Notes: I serve this with a scoop of vanilla ice cream dusted with cinnamon and a drizzle of caramel sauce. Good enough for company and easy enough for everyday.

If you are really feeling decadent and want to treat yourself, use the leftovers for French toast. Just slice thickly, dip in beaten egg and fry for 3 to 4 minutes per side. Serve with warm Maple syrup.

Bon Appetite!

An Important Public Service Announcement

Are any of you familiar with American Girl Dolls?

These pricey 18 inch dolls have been around for years. My 17 year old daughter has one and she (the doll) still commands a special space up on her doll shelf.

The dolls come complete with a "back" story about their life. They are all very positive stories where the doll has to overcome some obstacle in her life...

Well the geniuses at Mattel have come up with a new American Girl Doll. Her name is Gwen and her "back" story is that she and her mom are homeless. Seems like her pathetic looser of a dad walked out on them. I kid you not. Gwen and her mom have to sleep in cars.

I can't do justice to this story - so for the whole low down, go to Clark Kents Lunchbox by Ron Mattocks. Read Ron's eloquent letter to Mattel CEO Robert Eckert.

If you feel just as outraged as Ron, myself and thousand's of other parents regarding this new doll let Mattel and Mr. Eckert know by showing them the true power of the consumer this holiday season. Hit them at the cash register and just say no to American Girl Dolls and accessories.

The Good Cook

Friday, October 9, 2009

Candlepin Bowling, Ashfield and Lemon Brussel Sprouts

After dinner one night at Martin's Cafe in Shelburne Falls (Pumpkin Martinis, Haddock Almondine, sweet potato puree, homemade ice cream).. we decided to check out the 100 year old bowling alley in town. As kids both TBHITW and I had bowled in Saturday morning leagues. But neither one of us had ever seen bowling pins or bowling balls like these.

Click to enlarge to see pins

The bowling alley shoe lady told us that back when bowling was invented there were two versions of bowling. The one we are familiar with that uses big balls with finger holes and bowling pins that look like this:

And Candlepin Bowling that uses small balls and pins that look like this:

Seems that Candlepin Bowling is a Massachusetts favorite!

Anyway, TBHITW and I decided to give it a try. What fun! You get three balls per frame and the pins don't reset between throws so you get a lot of pin action from the fallen pins. It is much harder than "regular" bowling and scores are pretty low. At least they were for TBHITW... I am happy to report that The Good Cook beat him all three games. Maybe it was the two Pumpkin Martinis with dinner?

Anyhow... the next day was MY big day - Cheesemaking Workshop with Rikki Carroll in Ashfield.

There are two distinct properties in Ashfield (population: densely settled) and if you are looking for either one you can't miss them. One is the General Store and the other is Rikki's house, home of New England Cheesemaking:

The house is eclectic and extraordinary as Rikki herself. The workshop was awesome - I learned so much and have already made several of the cheeses and some Greek style yogurt using the techniques I learned that day. I've been hinting to TBHITW that I may need a cheese cave added on in the future.. what are the odds of that happening?

Anyway, my New England postings wouldn't be complete without one more picture. This is Shelburne Falls library... if this was the library in my town I would go every day.

Brussel Sprouts get a bad rap. No one ever liked them as a kid and as adults many people still carry that distaste around with them. Brussels are all over the markets right now, fresh, bright green and packed with nutrition. Pick yourself up a basket and try them this way:

Lemon Brussel Spouts with Pistachios:

One basket of brussel sprouts (about 10)
1/2 lemon, juiced and zest removed
1/4 cup shelled pistachios (unsalted if you can get them)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter

Cut the bottoms off the brussel sprouts and separate all the leaves. This takes a little time but you want brussel sprout leaves, not bundles.

Heat the oil and butter in a medium saute pan. Add the brussel sprouts and saute over medium high heat. Add the lemon juice and continue to saute until sprouts are beginning to wilt. Add the lemon zest and pistachios and toss around to heat the nuts.

Season with salt and a few good grinds of pepper. (if you are using salted pistachios, omit salting or taste to test.

Serve piping hot and don't tell me you don't like brussel sprouts again.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Shelburne Falls and Roasted Butternut Squash


I went to Massachusetts this weekend. Shelburne Falls and Ashfield to be exact.

Never heard of either one? That's because they are both tiny, tiny villages at the foot of the Berkshires. When I tell you they are unspoiled blasts from the past - that is exactly what they are. Handsome villages suspended in time with noble New Englanders living the simple life. Shelbourne Falls population: 2,000 nice people and a couple of grumps. The Ashfield sign said "densely settled".

Shelburne Falls' main street (which is Bridge Street) is 4 blocks long. It has 4 claims to fame. I think it has many, many more... but first:

The Flower Bridge
Glacial Potholes (the largest in the world - The Best Husband In The World was happy!)
Candlepin Bowling (I'll get to that)
Lamson and Goodnow, a Cutlery Outlet and kitchen store (be still my pounding heart)

This is one of the views driving into the village of Shelburne Falls:

Here is the flower bridge, it is an old trolley line that is no longer used for trolleys. Volunteer town folk have kept it planted since 1929 and everyone uses it to get from Shelburne Falls to Buckland (population just under 2,000 but who's counting), just over the bridge. I loved walking over this bridge and did it everyday of our stay.

Here is the view of the flower bridge from the "car bridge":

You have to drive over the car bridge or walk over the flower bridge to get to Lamson and Goodnow - the kitchen store.

I would have crawled:


The Best Husband In The World (a Professional Geologist by day) would have crawled to see the world's largest Glacial Potholes. The holes are formed over the years when a pebble gets caught on the rock - then the water washes over it, spinning it like a drill. Some of the holes still have the rock pebble in there. Interesting. Doesn't this picture look like a spooky face? Eyes, nose, round mouth with teeth?

Doesn't this picture look like a happy scientist face? The smile is caused by looking at geologic wonders.

Anyway, here is your recipe for the day. All the beautiful squashes are now in the markets. This is one of my family's favorite side dishes. Even my fussy eaters go for seconds. It is actually hardy enough to serve as a main vegetarian meal.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Cranberries, Walnuts and Spinach:

One butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into 1 inch cubes
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup walnuts
2 cups fresh spinach
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Place the butternut squash cubes in a heavy, oven proof casserole (with a lid if you have one, if not, you will use aluminum foil).

Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Add the butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Put a lid on the casserole and place in the center of the oven. Roast for 30 minutes. Uncover and stir. Toss the walnuts and cranberries in with the squash and stir to mix around. Put back in oven and roast for another 20-30 minutes until nicely browned and soft. Stir once or twice while checking for doneness.
Remove from oven and toss in spinach leaves. Cover for 5 minutes to wilt the spinach.

A Cook's Notes: This is a great side to roasted chicken, turkey or pork.

Tomorrow: The Cheese Queen and Candlepin bowling (you don't want to miss that...)

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