Category Archives: local

This is not a program; it is who we are {how to help refugees}

I think it’s so cool when people take their vacation and sick days to travel to Greece and hand out water and food. I often wish I could helicopter in and distribute coats. I wish I could hold and feed babies.

I admit feeling helpless when I hear about the 60 million displaced refugees around the world.

And it’s also easy for me to turn off the news, compartmentalize suffering, and head off to soccer practice.

This past weekend was General Conference, eight hours of talks by leaders of the our church. Funny how much I LOVE it now (really, eight HOURS???.) Instead of getting in the car on Sunday to go to church we get to watch from home (both Saturday AND Sunday!) It’s this awesomely spiritual down day.

With the help of cinnamon rolls, notebooks, and new sharpies 🙂 Cope saw these and said…”oh, I smell love.”unnamed-1

So we listened to talks by men and women who spend all the minutes of their day volunteering their time and energy to loving and serving others. Very inspiring.

The Relief Society is the women’s organization of the church and it is the largest women’s organization in the world. It’s purpose is just as it sounds: to provide relief to those in need. Once again there was a call to action – to help our brothers and sister refugees.

How to help? There was a new program announced called I Was a Stranger.

Citing information from the United Nations, Sister Burton (the Relief Society general president) said there are more than 60 million refugees worldwide and half of those are children.

The program doesn’t ask for us to fly to Greece or organize a huge relief drive (though those are awesome endeavors). “This is an opportunity to serve one-on-one, in families, and by organization to offer friendship, mentoring, and other Christlike service and is one of many ways sisters can serve.”

It reminded me of a friend who said to me, “You know, there are a lot of people who will fly across the world to help but won’t walk across the street to help their neighbor.”

I haven’t stopped thinking about that. It’s pretty simple, really. As we prayerfully seek guidance, I think we’ll be guided to just the right opportunity.

All the talks we heard were fantastic. You can watch HERE if you’re interested or just curious about what we Mormons sit around watching 🙂

But this talk by Patrick Kearon about refugees was especially great:

I’m thinking maybe I should just keep making cinnamon rolls…that would make someone happy, right???

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Quick and Tasty After School Snack: Baked Apple Bites

Are you in an afternoon snack funk? For that magical combination of fast, quick, tasty AND healthy?

Check. Baked apples to the rescue!

True, you need an oven, but baked apples are so different than the usual fare, that I was just tickled apple pink at such a quick, healthy, and tasty morsel.DSC_0056 Man, I love this season. The apples are in full bloom (are we really into fall?) so it’s time to pick yourself some yum-yum.

Turn the oven on to 400.DSC_0057 Take a knife and cut a circle out of the top

DSC_0058 Just like that!DSC_0060 Now, darlings, use a melon baller and scoop out the middle, past the seedsDSC_0061 It’s surprisingly easy.

DSC_0176 Isn’t that pretty?DSC_0179The gorgeous apple! And I love stars. Star was my alias in college. Really 🙂

DSC_0062 Eat the tops or feed them to the chicken. Or doggie.DSC_0063 There. All scooped out and ready to fill. I suggest putting down foil to prevent dishwashing.DSC_0066 Put a little brown sugar in the center and on the sides. Just a tad. Totally optional.DSC_0067 Add a little cinnamonDSC_0069 Perfect, no?

Now, put in preheated oven for about 15 min.DSC_0084 An apple full of love. Isn’t that a perfect heart?

DSC_0096If you accidentally overbake them, no worries, just eat that warm, mushy apple pie right up.

Can you only have these for after school? Heck no! They’re pretty terrific for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Even Valentine’s.

Baked Apple Bites:

Preheat oven to 400.

Wash apples, cut off top

Spoon out seeds (scraping sides a little bit), making a little well

Put a teensy bit of brown sugar and cinnamon inside

Bake at 400 for about 15 minutes or so, depending on how crunchy or soft you like to eat baked apples.

I just inherited a bag of apples from my middle school soccer team so I gotta go – baked apples await! And remember, apples contain quercetin: an apple a day, really does keep the doctor away.

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Tomatoes Four Ways: How to Make A Delish Dish

The end of summer means the tomatoes have popped. We have so many tomatoes I don’t know what to do with them all!

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But we’re giving it a try. And I think you should, too.

#1: Easy Peasy Tomatoes:

DSC_0032 DSC_0034Tomatoes, a dash of Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper, Basil. Simple and delicious.

#2: Easy Garlic Bread Caprese

DSC_0057Cut french bread or a ciabatta loaf in half. Spread Garlic and Butter. Liberally. Add chopped Basil.DSC_0060 Add Mozzarella Cheese. Liberally.DSC_0065 Add those fresh Tomatoes.

Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes or until cheese is melting into yummy goo.DSC_0082 Add Balsamic Vinegar, if you like.

Die happy.DSC_0085Like, real happy. Thank you, Cassie, for feeding us this. And Two Peas & Their Pod for original post.

#3: Homemade Tomato Sauce

Since tomatoes only comes once a year, it’s worth the time in the kitchen.DSC_0095 Score the Tomatoes (I started with about 30 perfectly imperfect ones).DSC_0102 Pop them into a pot of boiling water for 1 minute-ish. Look at those beautiful colors.DSC_0097Spoon them outDSC_0096 Plop them right into a pot of ice cold water for 1 minute-ishDSC_0100 The skin will peel right off! Put in separate bowl. Feed to chickens later?DSC_0099Give the Tomato to your child. Have them squeeze out the juice and seeds. Oh, they’ll like this part! You now have three bowls: skin, tomatoes, juice and seeds. DSC_0113Now, add Olive Oil to a pan and saute Carrots, Onion, and Garlic. Add Salt and Pepper. The kitchen will smell divine by now. Our children are more likely to eat sauce that isn’t chunky so we put our sauteed deliciousness and Tomatoes into the Vitamix for 20 seconds. Done.DSC_0128Simmer that sauce for a few hours until it’s no longer watery. Add Basil and Oregano and 1 Tablespoon Sugar.

So. So. Good.

Use for pasta, lasagna, or store in the freezer for those cold winter nights.

#4: Freshly Squeezed Tomato JuiceDSC_0116All the juice and seeds couldn’t go to waste! We added some Salt, Pepper, and Celery and gave it a whirl in the Vitamix. Done.DSC_0123And have been guzzling for days.

May the tomato force be with you.

Happy Weekend. xo.

 

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Summertime Peach Cobbler

The other day, on our 17th(!) wedding anniversary, the man and I picked from a tree dripping with peaches. In two minutes we had two full bags, with dreams of smoothies, cobbluhs’ and pies dancing in our head. One very ambitious bike ride later (he hurts me) we did make peach smoothies. And then came my attempt at the cobbler.

Tastes like a luscious peach pie, only it’s so quick and easy, with no dough to roll out. This cobbluh’ is a little different because batter is poured rather than thickly dolloped on top. It’s sooo divine and just the thing to make my husband say yes to one more year with me 🙂

The first thing I would do is blanche the peaches. Drop them in boiling water for 3-4 minutes, then drop in ice water. The skins should fall right off. If they don’t, drop in boiling water for another minute, then back into the ice.

butterWhile peaches are cooling, melt 1 stick butter in the microwave (about 45 seconds and yes, take off that wrapper 🙂 I used Kate’s Homemade Butter so I feel better about such things. While butter is melting, mix the dry ingredients.

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This is the flour you are going to use – Self-Rising!

brown sugar  DSC_0004  DSC_0006

In a separate bowl, add 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar, 1 Cup Self-Rising Flour, and 1 Cup Milk.

Whisk.

Once the dry ingredients are mixed, go get your buttuh’

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Whisk in melted Butter.

Spray pie dish with coconut oil (or any spray or butter) and pour batter in.

Add Peaches*. Yum!

DSC_0015I could have added more peaches but I didn’t want it to spill over.

DSC_0037Bake about 1 hour or until top is a golden brown. We like a little bit of crunch on top of the golden peach goo so we kept the cobbluh’ bakin’ until the edges were a little crispy.

DSC_0036It’s so good it’s not even fair.

Anniversary Peach Cobbluh’

1/2 Cup (1 stick) of Butter

1/2 Cup Brown Sugar

1 Cup Self-Rising Flour (very important)

1 Cup Milk

3-5 Cut Peaches*

Directions: Melt butter in microwave. While butter is melting, mix dry ingredients In a separate bowl: brown sugar, flour, and milk together. Whisk in cooled butter. Pour batter in greased pie dish. Drop cut peaches* into batter. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.

*I blanched the peaches first which just means dropping them in boiler water for a few minutes and then in a bowl of ice water. The skins come right off. You can see pictures of such a thing HERE.

Lest you think Maisymak has become a food blog…it hasn’t, I’m just cooking a lot these days and can’t seem to catch up to the rest of life documentation. With school starting, I hope to be a better and more consistent writer. For now, off to eat some anniversary cobbluh’. For breakfast.

 

 

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Two Delicious Summer Salads with the Amazing Squash Blossom Flower

Today I’d like to introduce you to a magical summer salad ingredient you never knew you were missing.

But must obtain now.

Thank you to dear Tamar for introducing me to the delectable, edible squash/zucchini blossom.

If you are growing zucchini or any type of squash, you already have these edible flowers right in your background. But perhaps you’ve never tasted them?

You can pick the squash or zucchini blossoms and it will not affect the plants. The blossoms are beautiful, local, seasonal, healthy and incredibly unique. They will also prompt many oohs and ahhhs from your guests 🙂

Salad #1: Kale and Quinoa Salad with Squash or Zucchini BlossomsDSC_0168First, go find that blossom! (Come on over if you’re local!) Pick in the morning when the blossoms are open. They will all have bees doing their business. Gently pluck the the blossom off their stem and shake the bees out. Easy peasy. Now run!

DSC_0170Add flowers to the bounty – including that kale you see poking out. You’re going to want both for the amazing kale, quinoa, and squash blossom salad.

Don’t have any blossoms? Pillage the neighbor’s garden, visit a farmer’s market, or, pin this page and grow some next spring 🙂 DSC_0006 Gently rinse the blossoms and pat dry.DSC_0002 Cut them in nice stripsDSC_0010They’ll look like this. Aren’t they so beautiful? A rare August treasure.DSC_0030 Kale and Quinoa Salad with Squash or Zuchinni Blossoms:

1 Bunch Kale (Tuscan best)

2 Cups prepared Quinoa

2 Cups cut vegetables: Tomato, Zucchini and Cucumber

Directions:

Saute cut kale in olive oil, salt, and 1 clove garlic

Put Kale, Quinoa and Vegetables in bowl. Use a light vinaigrette or make your own!

Homemade Vinaigrette:

2-3 Tbsp Orange Juice

1/2 Lime, squeezed

2 tsp Maple Syrup

1/4 Cup Olive Oil

1-2 Cloves Garlic

Salt and Pepper

YUM!

Garnish with the squash/zucchini  blossoms

Salad #2: Kale Salad with Gorgonzola Cheese and Grilled Peaches and Plums.

Oh my goodness this is good. peaches Wash and cut peaches and plums. How many is up to you – 3 or 4 each? Someday we will have peach and plum trees around here…DSC_0014 Put them on the grill. No seasoning required.DSC_0015 Mmmm. Just for a few minutes until they become soft – but not mushy!DSC_0050 Something like this with those nice grill lines.

Throw some onions and cut beets on the grill if you like.DSC_0023 That’s about it my friends. Add the cheese, walnuts, kale, and mixed greens and you’re in business. optional: grilled onions and beetsDSC_0060 Last night’s dinner.DSC_0063Kale Salad with Gorgonzola Cheese and Grilled Peaches and Plums

1 Bunch Kale and Mixed Greens

1/2 Walnuts

1/2 Cup Gorgonzola Cheese

Grilled Peaches and Plums

Squash/Zucchini Blossoms, cut

Optional: Grilled onions and beets (we used both!)

Use a light balsamic vinaigrette or make your own!

Light Vinaigrette:

1/4 Cup Olive Oil

1/4 Cup Balsamic Vinaigrette

1/4 Cup Red Wine Vinegar

Salt, Pepper, and Garlic Salt to Taste

Directions:

Wash 1 Bunch Kale and Mixed Greens. Put in bowl. Grill 2-4 cut Peaches and Plums (each) until soft but not mushy. Let cool. Grill onions and sliced beets (optional). Saute 1/2 Cup Walnuts on stove top. Put on salad. Slice Peaches and Plums. Put on Salad. Add Gorgonzola Cheese and sliced Squash/Zucchini Blossoms. Put on Salad and add Vinaigrette.

YUM.

Looking for more Squash/Zucchini Blossom recipes?

Here’s Giada’s Fried Cheese-Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms. Woah.

And Mother Earth News Squash Blossom Tempura. 

Enjoy!

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Fresh Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Maple Syprup Walnuts

Keep reading. Beets are known to be perfect for wooing.

I love when a friend brings a healthy, fresh dish that’s so good you follow them around begging for the recipe. Thank you, Molly, for this gem of a salad! beets beet2

Molly wrote down the recipe right in my kitchen; it’s that simple and she’s that nice. I three-hole punched it and slid it into the cookbook binder as I knew it would be a salad staple.

The fresh beets, goat cheese, and candied maple syrup walnuts have been a huge hit with guests and family all summer. We even served it at a wedding party dinner.

You’re sold, right?

If not, I understand. Beets used to be the very last vegetable on my childhood wish list. I thought they grew in a can. Blech! But times have changed, my friends. Beets were the underdog and they’ve made a comeback.

A few months ago I began eating beets only because they were healthy. I drank them raw, in smoothies, with the edible greens; beets make every smoothie pretty.

Over the last few months I’ve eaten beets boiled, roasted, chilled, and grilled. And now sing beet praises. With enough exposure (and improved cooking methods!) the palate changed and adapted – so can yours!

Full of antioxidants (cancer fighters), vitamins, and minerals, beets also help detox the liver. They are huge for endurance because of the sugar/carbohydrate content (making them excellent sources of energy), but because of its high fiber, the carbohydrates are released slowly into the blood sugar. Versus chocolate.

Need one more benefit? Yes, beets are also known to be aphrodisiacs. Who knew?

So. Let’s dig in. Literally, or find those beets at the grocery store or farmer’s market.

Wash fresh beets well and cut off greens (edible!). Under no circumstances are you to use canned beets. Promise me.

You can boil the beets in a small amount of water (save the leftover liquid for smoothies!) or even microwave them, but my favorite way is roasting. Cut beets in half, skin on, and roast with a tad bit of olive oil. About 40 minutes. When soft, let cool, and rub off skin.lettuceSnip mixed greens from garden. If your grocery store isn’t on strike, you can buy lettuce there. Wash, dry, and put in salad bowl.DSC_0237 Next, over medium heat, put 1 Cup Chopped Walnuts into a frying pan.DSC_0235Pour 1/4 Cup Pure Maple Syrup into pan. Stir. In mere minutes, walnuts will caramelize and become like coated candy. Divine. Watch carefully, stir often. Scrape immediately onto greens. If you leave them in the pan for later it will be a hardened disaster.

salad Just like this. Beautiful, no? Tasty, yes?

DSC_0060 Add beets and small spoonfuls of fresh goat cheese. No, I have no goats to milk or cheese.

That’s it. So simple. But we do need a dressing:DSC_0241Combine 1/4 Cup Olive Oil, 1/4 Cup Balsamic Vinegar, alt and Pepper. Stir & pour just before serving.DSC_0250 It’s a monster hit.goatcheese

Fresh Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Maple Syrup Walnuts:

For Salad:

Mixed greens

2-3 Fresh Beets

8 ounces Fresh Goat Cheese

1 Cup Walnuts, chopped

¼ Cup Maple Syrup

Dressing:

¼ Cup Olive Oil

¼ Cup Balsamic Vinegar

Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Wash beets, cut off stems, cut in half. Roast in oven for 40 minutes or until just soft. Let cool.

2. Over medium heat, add 1/2 cup walnuts and 1/4 cup pure maple syrup. Stir constantly until walnuts caramelize. Put on greens.

3. Rub skin off beets, cut into small pieces, and put on mixed greens.

4. Add goat cheese

5. Add dressing.

Enjoy! And swoon.

Last night as I was laying down with the girls at bedtime, Brynne whispered…”I just want to go to sleep…and eat some beets.”

Looking for more salad ideas? Try these:

 

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With Market Basket on Strike, I’m Glad For a Garden

I always thought my grocery store relationship was unique. Special. It’s like my boyfriend. I mean, I really really love my Market Basket (I’m particular about location.) I know the aisles like I know my house. I can cheerfully direct traffic to the correct aisle. I watch the sales. I brag about the produce seconds. I’m awed by the quality cilantro, delighted that every single variety of apple is always 99 cents/pound. Not to mention the 4% always taken off the bill. Just because. MB loves me like that.

I’ve long raved about my great Market Basket love. And if you haven’t heard or don’t follow east coast grocery store drama, Market Basket is in trouble with a capital T. You can meet the players HERE. A few weeks ago, a family feud forced out a beloved CEO, Arthur T. Workers demanded reinstatement. Employees refused to work. Trucks stopped delivering food. Now, instead of stocking shelves, employees stand outside with signs – HONK FOR SUPPORT.

I always honk. I admire the pluck. And I admire a CEO who can garner such support from his troops. Apparently, I’m not the only one who feels love and loyalty.

But I’m struggling. How long do I hold out? We’re on the last loaf of our Market Basket 12-grain bread (2 for $4!) And even if bread is stocked, am I supporting “corporate greed” by shopping there? I just want a loaf of bread. I’m holding out, mostly because I’m too ashamed to walk through the throng of protestors without covering my head with a blanket or wearing a Sydney Bristow wig. Which actually might be awesome.

The last time I shopped at Market Basket was like a Tom Cruise Armageddon movie. Shelves looked ransacked. Except for a few measly and less-than-appealing apples, the produce was gone! The few cashiers left, asked me to sign a petition to bring back Arthur T. I signed…and prayed for deliverance! Whatever it takes – bring me back my Market Basket.

It’s been eye-opening. If there were no grocery stores, we might starve. We have food storage, but our meals are completely dependent on what other people supply. And you know, a food crisis can happen within days – shelves can be emptied in mere hours. We could be subsisting on dandelions.

I dragged my feet this past spring when it came to planting a garden. But now? I’m very thankful for the bounty.DSC_0046Freshly picked strawberries and rhubarb from a neighbor’s garden. Here’s my first attempt. It wasn’t pretty. The crust? Sure, I could grind my own flour. I have a vitamix and a wheat grinder, but I’m mostly dependent on flour from the grocery store.

peasThe peas were the first to pop.

DSC_0605And a beautiful thing it was.

DSC_0355I was scared to plant cabbage. But it grew!

DSC_0169And was turned into our first homemade slaw. It was delicious!

DSC_0214And used in a variety of ways.

IMG_3034Green beans

beetsBeets! Glorious beets.

Here’s one of my workers…I wonder if they would protest if I was fired?DSC_0130

DSC_0064Another worker weeds. The teenagers finally got out of bed after multiple threats from their beloved CEO 🙂 and weeded the blueberry bushes.

DSC_0342 Tomatoes are the slowest, but they are slowly making their way up toward the sun.

blueberriesBlueberries popped this week. If we can keep the birds away we’ll actually have a bumper crop.DSC_0323Nectaries were procured from grocery store. They were pricey even though they are in season. White nectarines? Oh my goodness delicious. This is what I’m overdosing on every day: Full fat Greek yogurt with fresh blueberries and nectarines. Satiating and so tasty.

DSC_0266Kale from the garden. Easy and delectable: Saute with olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. It’s so good! And for Grandpa’s birthday we gave him a kale bouquet. Cause cookies don’t grow in the garden…but kale does.

kale bouquet

IMG_3036The most delightful surprise this season was the potato!

DSC_0199 Beautiful, purple, fingerling potatoes. We’ve eaten so many potatoes the kids say NO MORE POTATOES PLEASE! DSC_0148 Potatoes grow right in the dirt. You just have to dig for them. And plant them, of course.DSC_0154 The bounty.DSC_0228The purple taters were made into a colorful and tasty potato salad accompanied by our chicken eggs (have you ever noticed how YELLOW farm fresh yolks are?)

DSC_0036Spinach and our first carrot. We were so proud I almost sent out a birth announcement. Morning smoothies have been…adventurous.

DSC_0230 Colorful carrots are tasty any way you slice ’em.DSC_0136 And come out of the ground with such character!DSC_0089Gardening and photography are not naturally compatible – it’s messy! But I could not resist.DSC_0068I thought this was a melon. Sadly, it’s actually some sort of squash or zucchini I don’t recall planting. I’m delegating it to the husband.

IMG_3035My mouth is salivating for these babies to turn red. Tomatoes are the real reason I garden. I’m such a tomato snob that they’re hardly worth eating unless they come from the garden.

DSC_0164 This represents work.DSC_0153And reminds me that everything starts messy. In this case? Worth the mess.DSC_0142It’s worth it even when you can’t account for all the bugs, birds, and roaming deer who are going to eat your hard work.

Grocery stores are a great luxury I used to take for granted. For our family, gardening is a personal hobby, not a necessity. But will it always be like this? If my garden didn’t grow, I’d be incredibly frustrated, but I’d hop skip and jump to the grocery store.

I’ve always been able to depend on the store for food – until I couldn’t.

Though the Market Basket strike is annoying, I’m grateful for the pause. Our food supply is the best in the world. Who else but Americans can always find blackberries, raspberries, and exotic peppers at any time of the year? Real people are growing food for us. But if they disappear, there is no food. And then what? I have a feeling we’d all care a lot less about our Twitter following and a lot more about the wheat harvest.

This summer, when the food disappeared from my grocery store, I could drive to Hannaford or Walmart or Shaws. But with no Market Basket, even they were having a hard time keeping shelves stocked. I felt the panic.

I turned to the garden. We ate local. Real local. Like right from the back yard.

Food is a precious commodity that can be yanked at any moment – leaving us in a precarious situation if we’re not prepared.

I don’t have a garden all year round and I’ll still continue to buy honey rather than keep my own beehive. But if I had to, could I? Could you?

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Sugar Season in a Small Town

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Every year, as February becomes March, our hearts begin to feel just a little bit giddy with anticipation. Down the road we wait for The Sign. When The Sign comes out it means that The Sugar Man is boiling!

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Yes, those are pet llamas.

Before I was swept from the west by a certain professorial boy, I thought syrup came from a factory. Maple and trees and sap happened in books, maybe. I don’t know. I was reading The Babysitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High.

I grew up happily eating Mrs. Butterworth or some other generic variety. When I came to live in the sticks I saw buckets attached to trees and it was explained to me that the trees were dripping sugar that we were going to eat. is this for real?

The real stuff is so superior to the fake stuff that it took me a few years to like it. Saying that kind of thing in these pahts will get you looks of shock, pity, and a gasp or too – “Oh No!” It’s simply not done! In New England we eat real syrup boiled down from real sap procured from real maple trees. THE END.

The Sugar Man puts out the sign in March, after a long marathon of winter. All winter he and his crew have been checking buckets, sap lines, and taps. And every year is different than the rest. You need specific temperatures of cold and then a good thaw so the sap can run. It’s the life of a farmer: Some years are better than others with big bounty highs and disappointing lows that can kill a business. It’s part of the thrill.

When we see The Sign we travel down a gravel road that turns to dirt that turns to mud. Which is why March in this little town is also called “Mud Season,” a season to get your van stuck in the mud repeatedly with four children in the backseat shrieking, laughing, fighting, singing, and asking when we’ll get there. I love mud season. Because I love doing laundry.

Mud Season though, is better than Black Fly Season. A season which can make you go insane.

Mud Season you see, has amber waves of syrup.

DSC_0311This is Eric’s “The Sugar Man’s” Sugar Shack. Eric built it himself. It was a hobby that turned into an award-winning business. Why, his Tucker Mountain Maple, is a 1st place winner at the Sandwich Fair!

I just think it’s great that there is a town named Sandwich.

boards

Before we can get to the sugar house we have to traverse the mud by way of long boards, which is a rather exciting adventure for children and their Mama, too.

Public Service Announcement: You do not walk to the sugar shack in heels, flip flops, or anything white or adorable. Just believe me on this one.

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We know we’ve arrived by way of the giant maple leaf

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Walking into the sugar house, we are greeted by a warm mist mingled with the most divine smell…of sugar. Pure dark maple sugar that has been boiled down from sap that comes from trees – isn’t that remarkable?

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Here is Eric’s sugar record. The first year he put in 140 taps and got 24 gallons. Every year since he’s done better than the one before except for 2012 where we had the weirdest cold and warm spells and very little sap flowed.

So sad! Without sap there can be no syrup. We managed to procure a precious bottle and rationed it carefully for a whole year. Sometimes we have to hide the good stuff…

Boiling day is when we get to taste the fruits of The Sugar Man’s efforts. Eric and Heidi and their two girls, and volunteer sap collectors have long days collecting sap. Some seasons, especially when there is a record sap flow, there is very little sleep, just long days and nights of boiling and boiling and collecting and boiling.

IMG_2855 DSC_0307 IMG_2858

Of course, we have to do our part and drink those little sacrament cups of maple syrup samples. Preach!

There are different grades of sap and syrup. The lighter colored sap is the most desirable and will sell the best. The darker grade is rich and rustic and comes at the end as the tree is getting tired and running low, so it’s considered a lower grade.

When we take the little cup, the children look at their Mom – really? you’re letting us just drink sugar? Yes, darlings. Drink! Be filled! It’s plant based, right? It came from the trees!

It always reminds me of Buddy the Elf.

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And then we try the maple cream. Oh my goodness. On those cold, wet, dreary March days, standing in front of the wood burning stove drinking sugar and tasting maple cream dripped pretzels feels something like a Laura Ingalls storybook.

Eric, a former teacher and logger, and now an educator for NH Logger Association, used to chop all the wood himself and feed a wood fire evaporator and stove to boil the syrup. But now our Sugar Man uses pellets because it’s easier and he has ALS and needs it to be easier. We don’t worry of these things, or future sugar seasons.

A few months ago he said to me, “We’ll just go as long as we can go.”

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So that’s what we do too. We go as long as we can go. We enjoy the season we’re in, this glorious season of sugar.

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IMG_2903The Sugar Man and his Papa Sugar.

On the next warm weekend The Sugar Man and his troops will spray out all the sap buckets, a messy, wet, muddy process that marks the end of a glorious sugar season in a small New England town.

 

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Blackberry, Goat Cheese, and Spiced Nut Salad

Run.  Quick.  Pluck the blackberries right this very moment before they are gone for another year.
Oh, I do love them so.  Delicious and delectable.  More of a bother to pick than the blueberry, perhaps this was the reason naughty Peter Rabbit would go for the onions and cabbages in Mr. McGregor’s garden.  Should have gone for the blackberry and stayed out of trouble.

This is where you can sing now…”he works hard for his money, uh-huh uh-huh…”

“so hard for it, honey…”  This ain’t no work for wimps.  Mowing down the blackberries is man’s work that leaves the man, spent.  Not to worry, the blackberries grow back with a vengeance.

Were we here for a recipe? Oh, right.

This comes directly from Annie’s-Eats and is a salad recipe I saved until just this very moment in time when the blackberry was in season – ta da!  Blackberries, goat cheese, and spiced nuts, oh my!

Blackberry Chevre Salad
about 4-6 servings

For the dressing: 
6 oz. fresh blackberries, rinsed
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1½ tbsp. honey
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste


For the spiced nuts: 
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. brown sugar
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
Dash of ground ginger
Dash of cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste
¾ cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)


To assemble: 
Mixed salad greens
2 oz. honey goat cheese
About 6 oz. fresh blackberries
Thinly sliced vidalia onion (didn’t have any!)


DIRECTIONS

  • To make the dressing, place the berries in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.  Pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve, pressing out as much fruit puree as possible while removing the seeds.  In a liquid measuring cup or jar, combine the blackberry puree with the vinegar, honey, and olive oil.  Whisk vigorously until the mixture is well blended and smooth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Chill until ready to use.
  • To make the spiced nuts, melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Stir in the brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste.  Allow the mixture to heat for about 1 minute, then stir in the chopped nuts.  Let cook, stirring occasionally, until the nuts are lightly toasted, about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let cool.
  • To serve, plate portions of salad greens on salad plates.  Top with crumbled goat cheese, fresh blackberries, vidalia onion and the spiced nuts as desired.  Drizzle lightly with the blackberry vinaigrette.  Serve immediately.
and if that’s just too much to handle, sprinkle on your granola and call it a day.

Happy weekend, blackberry!

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