Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Sweet Potato and Chickpea Boats

Sweet Potatoes and Chickpeas with a tossed salad
You can't get much easier for a quick meal than this recipe for one. Simply multiply by the number of people you would like to serve.

1 sweet potato washed and cut in half
1 small can chick peas rinsed
1/2 cup marinara sauce
1/2 cup baby spinach leaves
2 tablespoons fresh dill chopped or other fresh herbs
Olive oil

Brush the tops of the potato halves with olive oil and bake at 375 degrees until soft (30 - 60 minutes depending on the size). Cool slightly. Mix the chickpeas with the dill, spinach and a drizzle of olive oil. Scoop out a small amount of potato in the center and fill with the chickpea mixture. Spread the marinara on top and back an additional 10 - 12 minutes. Serve immediately. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Reading List for 2019

The Christmas decorations have been put away, so now, it's time to look ahead and plan for 2019. A common New Year's resolution  is to "set aside time to read more." Although I don't officially make New Year's resolutions, I do want to read more and I will be happy if I can get through the stack of books that is currently on my night stand. The above picture shows what I hope to read in the months ahead. Some I have been meaning to get to for some time, others were gifts, and a couple were picked up at used book stores this past year. Here are the three books which I aim to read first.

I have already started The Town that Food Saved by Ben Hewitt, 2010. This book tells how local agriculture transformed the northern Vermont town called Hardwick. I'm excited to learn about this story and to then follow-up with a visit to this community.

The Hucksters by Federic Wakeman, 1946. As an old movie buff, particularly Clark Gable and Cary Grant movies, I love searching book and antique stores for memorabilia. The Hucksters is a 1947 movie with Clark Gable and Deborah Kerr, so I am excited to read the book upon which this classic film is based.

The Habit of Turning the World Upside Down by Howard Mansfield, 2018. This book was given to me as a Christmas gift and I look forward to reading about property rights and how those rights can be challenged by those who happen to have more money and consequently hold more power.

The days have already started to get longer, and this week begins the shift toward earlier sunrises. But for the next couple of months ahead, I'm going to enjoy the cold and darkness by curling up on the couch with a few good books. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Winery Tours in New Hampshire

Happy Holidays and Welcome 2019. To conclude 2018, ten New Hampshire Wineries Coordinated a fun Holiday Event by hosting special wine tastings during the month of December. We were able to visit six locations over two weekends. It was a unique way to see different parts of the state. The following is a description of the family-owned vineyards we visited.

Zorvino Vineyards, Sandown

This vineyard was established in 2004, and currently has about 2000 vines on 80 acres. It was the largest vineyard that we visited. Zorvino's has a large tasting room and gift shop that offers a wide

Entrance to Zorvino Vineyards
 variety of wines, including fruit and vegetable blends. Even if you aren't a wine connoisseur, you most likely will find a wine to enjoy. They also has a large post and beam barn which they use for hosting weddings and other functions. It was a great place to start our tour.

Flag Hill Distillery and Winery, Lee

Products Sourced by Flag Hill Winery
This 110 permanently conserved property was converted from a dairy farm to a vineyard in 1987, making it the oldest vineyard that we visited. In 2004 they expanded their operation to include spirits. The owners, Brian and Maddie Ferguson grow grapes, grain and vegetables on the property which are are all used to make into their wines, spirits and culinary dishes. The tasting included a sampling of wines and spirits as well as three of their delicious made meatballs. All their ingredients are either grown on site, or are sourced locally in New England.

Sweet Baby Vineyard, Hampstead

Sweet Baby Vineyard began operations in 2008, and moved to its current location in 2016, where they aspire to plant 1500 vines. They clearly have a love for the business. They have a spacious wine tasting facility, which had plenty of room for our baby granddaughter to stretch her legs. We were pleasantly pleased when they brought out brownie sundaes as part of the Jingle Bell Tour.

Entering the Tasting Room at Sweet Baby Vineyard

 Averill House Vineyard, Brookline

Entrance to Averill House Vineyard
Just as the sun was setting we made it to our last stop of the first day - Averill House Vineyard, the newest winery on the tour which has only been in operation for a few years. Although they currently  offer a limited selection, the wines we tried were good and unique, including their cherry and coffee flavored wine. In addition to participating in the Jingle Bell Tour, they also hosted dinner and crafting events in 2018. I predict a bright future for this small family run operation.

Haunting Whisper Vineyard and Spirits, Danbury

This past weekend, my son, who was visiting for the Christmas Holiday, and I decided to check out two more wineries. The first was in Danbury, about an hour drive north of Concord. It was nice to see a little snow on the ground, since December has been mostly wet instead of white.

View from Haunting Whisper Vineyard
Haunting Whisper opened to the public in 2009. They are located on a hill which have beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. Inside the tasting room, you can see where the wine and spirits are made. If you are looking for a picturesque place to visit in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, I recommend checking out Haunting Whisper which will reopen in May.

Appolo Vineyards, Derry

Our last stop was to Appolo Vineyards which was established in 2004. Although not as large as some of the other vineyards we visited, they had an intimate tasting room next to the colonial style farmhouse. We appreciated the fact that they offered an organic wine from Brianna grapes grown on their own property. In the summer you can watch the grapes being crushed on their outdoor crushing pad.

Appolo Vineyards Entrance
And since we were in Derry, we decided to take a walk around the Robert Frost Farm, which I have wanted to visit for some time. The house was not open, but there is a nice trail that surrounds the property. You can read some of Frost's poems and a little of the history of the property, from markers located along the trail. It was a very nice way to end the day and the year.  

View of the Robert Frost farmhouse from a woods trail behind a field.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Simple Pumpkin Chicken Casserole

Pumpkin Casserole
This recipe is made simple by using boxed or canned pumpkin or squash soup. It is great for a week night since putting it together is a snap. You can make it with rice or pasta or add vegetables in place of the chicken to make it vegetarian.

2 cups cooked rice
16 ounces pumpkin or squash soup
2 diced cooked chicken breasts
1 orange or yellow pepper chopped
2 green onions chopped
1 apple peeled and diced
1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries
1/4 cup slivered almonds
Parmesan cheese

Combine all ingredients except cheese. Spoon into a greased casserole dish. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake at 450 degrees 20 minutes.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Feast of St. Nicholas

Image result for st. nicholas
from 123rf.com
The feast of Saint Nicholas is celebrated on many different days from December 4th (England and Scotland) to December 19th (in the East). In the United States, Saint Nicholas has given way to Santa Claus, who arrives on Christmas Eve bearing gifts for children. The historical St. Nicholas was a Christian Bishop of Lycia, now southern Turkey. He is known for secretly giving gifts. One legend has it that he provided dowries for 3 daughters of a poor man who could not do so himself. This allowed each of the three daughters to be honorably married, according to custom at that time. As we remember this tradition of gift-giving in December please give thought to where and how you make your purchases. Now that Black Friday is behind us, we can hopefully slow down and appreciate the holiday season by supporting your local merchants. I know you have heard the mantra "shop local" many times, but have you truly thought what your community would be like without small businesses and local stores? If you visit a brick and mortar store, and then purchase the product on-line because it is cheaper, would you still do so if it meant that a few months down the road your local store would be shutting its doors because it is no longer profitable?  Sadly that is what is happening in towns all around the country. Yes, you most likely will be paying more when you buy from your local merchant, but you are getting value from simply having a store that you can walk into, feel and touch its products, and have a face to face conversation with the owner or clerk. Further, stores keep our Main Streets alive, by attracting people to get out and socialize.

This November 15th article at Futurity.org has a sobering statistic that about 7000 stores in the United States shuttered their doors between 2016 and 2017. It also reports on research which showed that most people, and society as a whole, would be devastated if physical stores no longer existed. Not only would it have detrimental impact to local economies (think reduced tax revenues and increased payments for social services), it would would also have health and social impacts. Shopping provides an opportunity for engage with friends and to meet new acquaintances. In addition to mental health, many people use shopping as a means to get some exercise by walking.  

So please, in the spirit of Saint Nicholas have your shopping experience be impactful by benefiting not just the receiver of the gifts, but you as the shopper and the merchant as a critical component of our communities.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Easy Sweet Potato and Kale Soup

Sweet Potato and Kale Soup
Our son came home for Thanksgiving and made this delicious, hearty soup, adapted from the Run Fast, Cook Fast, Eat Slow cookbook. It comes together in minutes and only needs about 20 minutes on the stove. Serve with your favorite bread for a complete weeknight meal.

2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 medium onion diced
2 carrots peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks chopped
1 large yam, unpeeled and diced into 1 inch cubes
1 can garbanzo beans drained
1 can coconut milk
1 can crushed or diced tomatoes
4 cups water
3 cups chopped kale.

In a dutch oven or heavy soup pot heat oil and saute onions, carrots, celery and salt about 5 minutes until soft, but not brown. Add curry powder and stir for 30 seconds. Add remaining ingredients, except kale. Bring to a boil and simmer until sweet potato is soft, about 15 - 20 minutes. Add chopped kale and cook until wilted, about 30 seconds.
Makes 4-6 hefty servings.   

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Caching Food for the Winter

Squirrels and a turkey take advantage of bird seed on ground following the first snowfall of the year.
As Thanksgiving approaches, our thoughts are turned to food. As with the early settlers, without a means to access food, the outset of winter can turn tragic for those in the animal kingdom. This week in LIVESCIENCE an article titled "How Do Squirrels Remember Where They Buried Their Nuts" describes research conducted by Mike Maria Delgado, University of California Davis, and published in the Journal Royal Society Open Science. The article reports how squirrels will bury their collections in various areas based upon characteristics of the food and that they rely on memory to locate the stash during the winter. About 95 percent of the stored food is successfully found and retrieved. What I found most interesting in the article is that even when squirrels cache their food in the same vicinity of other squirrel's supply, each squirrel will return to their own personal cache. There was an abundance of acorns last fall, which contributed to a rise in the squirrel population this year. I counted at least six squirrels at our feeders this past weekend. They are probably leaving their acorn harvest for later in the winter, when other sources of food are more scarce.

Gardeners and farmers are fortunate in that we don't have to hide our harvest, and that we have means to freeze, dry and can our food to ensure a healthy supply of food over the winter. And, if we don't preserve enough, there are always winter farmers markets and organic food selections at the super market. For this I am grateful. Happy Thanksgiving All!