Food Friday: What’s in Your Lunchbox?

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When I was in high school, Meg LeGros sat behind me in Latin class. She had a short, dark pixie do, and she was spritely and funny and smart. She introduced me to the lifelong joys of using a Rapidograph drawing pen, and inspired yearning for her plaid, tin lunchbox, which was retro even in the Seventies. Her cute lunchbox sat on top of her pile of books as we swotted along, droning declensions and memorizing key Latin phrases that would help us sail through the SATs.

I carried an ordinary brown paper bag for my lunch. There was never anything inspired in it, I am afraid. A cheese sandwich, an orange, some squashed potato chips. Meg, who was a junior and in a much loftier social position, and a more fashionable lunch period, probably had duck sandwiches slathered with nectar, and lavish metaphors of manna from heaven tucked into waxed paper bags. I think she ended up going to Brown.

Later on, I tried to be a little more inspired with our children, who had super cute (though never retro cute) lunch boxes, with ziplock Baggies filled with sandwiches, broccoli florets, orange slices, strawberries, and Fritos. When the Tall One was in elementary school his signature sandwich was bologna on Pepperidge Farm White Bread, with his portrait squirted out in bright yellow mustard on the watermelon pink disk of processed meat: a happy face with a tangle of yellow curls. The Pouting Princess carted an endless supply of peanut butter sandwiches with disgusting tubes of squirtable pink yogurt and shimmery packs of Capri Sun juices. Bottled water didn’t become fashionable until middle school.

We tried to be healthy and of the moment, packing vegetables along with the chocolate chip cookies. We were encouraged by the schools to bring homemade cupcakes for birthday celebrations – although the store-bought variety seemed more popular among the young. And now we would not be allowed to bring peanut butter sandwiches from home. We were just ahead of the frightening peanut curve.We have a friend who is deathly allergic to peanuts, so the peanut ban makes perfect sense. These can be scary times!

Which is not to say that your lunches, and your children’s lunches, can’t be a spritely and groovy as Meg LeGros’s! Have you seen Bento boxes? Totally adorable. Meg probably has a collection of vintage ones. Even Rubbermaid is making colorful, healthy plastic (no dangerous BPA, and they can be recycled) Bento-ish boxes. They are a nightmare to keep sorted in the cabinet I must say, but their whimsical color-coding seems to cancel the annoyance.

If you have to prepare lunches for someone, say someone in kindergarten, deposit said short person in the car seat and buzz over to the grocery story. Better yet, do it on a Saturday when the farmers’ market is open, so the child meets the farmers.

Do you want an apple picked in Galena or some peaches from Sharpsburg? You choose, tiny student. Perhaps some local strawberries? Excellent idea! Shall we try some squash? Let’s put it in the little green box! Shall we make pita pizzas or ham pinwheels? What will fit in this box? Oooh, let’s try some salsa and some artisan ground corn tortilla chips (no high fructose corn syrup, please). And a few cracker nibbles spread with some of Eve’s Cheddar cheese? How delightful! Flavored water, or tap?

And you, too, Tall Reader, you can treat yourself to all these earthly pleasures. They are not only for the young. A nice packed lunch of tasty and local treats will perk up your day considerably. You can wander away from your computer, pick up your book, sit outside in the sunlight (which will be fading soon, and you need to store some up for the winter) and enjoy yourself for once. Don’t forget to pack a cupcake – homemade buttercream is the best.

Take a little time out to plan. I know. It is difficult, but the results will be beautiful and worthwhile. There is always something to see at a farmers’ market. Buy some flowers, too. We need to brighten all the corners that we can.

https://www.freshfarmmarkets.org/wp/

http://www.chestertownfarmersmarket.net/

http://www.evescheese.com/

For you wrangling the young ‘uns:

https://www.facebook.com/ParentToolkit/videos/1676943289258825/?fref=nf

http://acowboyswife.com/back-to-school-lunchbox-ideas/

http://naturalnewagemum.com/30-super-healthy-lunch-box-snacks/

http://tribecanutrition.com/tag/lunch-ideas/

http://www.familyfreshmeals.com/2015/01/over-50-healthy-work-lunchbox-ideas.html

And for the adults:

http://ipacklunch.com/2014/01/a-dozen-12-easy-work-lunch-ideas/

“They held their hard-boiled eggs in one hand and a piece of bread and butter in the other, munching happily. There was a dish of salt for everyone to dip their eggs into.
‘I don’t know why, but the meals we have on picnics always taste so much nicer than the ones we have indoors,’ said George.”
― Enid Blyton,

Adkins Arboretum to Host Native Plant Nursery Fall Open House

Native asters. Photo by Josh Taylor Jr.

Adkins Arboretum’s Native Plant Nursery will open its doors Sept. 12 and 13 for a Fall Open House and Plant Sale. Visitors will have the opportunity to tour the Nursery, learn about plant propagation and rain barrels, and visit the Nursery’s native gardens, all in addition to purchasing ornamental native plants for the fall garden.

Native asters. Photo by Josh Taylor Jr.

Native asters. Photo by Josh Taylor Jr.

Brilliant orange butterfly weed and stunning red cardinal flower attract pollinators such as bees, hummingbirds and butterflies to the garden, while native asters add subtle shades of purple and blue. Redbud and dogwood dot the early-spring landscape with color, and shrubs such as aronia and beautyberry provide food and habitat for birds and other wildlife.

Fall is the best season for planting. Trees and shrubs planted in fall have a chance to set roots before the heat and stress of summer. The Arboretum participates in the Marylanders Plant Trees program, an initiative by the State of Maryland to encourage residents to plant native trees. The program offers a $25 coupon toward purchase of native trees that retail for $50 or more.

Sat., Sept. 12 is an Open House day for members from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. New members are welcome. All members, including those who join during the Open House, will receive a significant discount on plant purchases. Public Open House hours are Sun., Sept. 13 from noon to 4 p.m.

Open House visitors can also learn about the Arboretum’s Native Landscape Design Center, a unique offering that pairs homeowners with a landscape designer to create a beautiful and affordable native landscape that benefits wildlife and the environment.

Proceeds from plants sold at the Fall Open House benefit the Arboretum’s education programs. For more information, call 410-634-2847, extension 0 or visit www.adkinsarboretum.org.

Food Friday: Back to Back Breakfasts

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Let us take a page from Christmas. Don’t panic; we still have a few months to go before we start worrying about that. But summer vacation is almost over. And school is about to start. What are you going to have for breakfast Monday morning?

I suggest that a little of the planning, much like holiday prep can be applied to our everyday, real life breakfast experience. On Christmas morning we always have a couple of favorite breakfast casseroles pre-cooked and sitting in the fridge, waiting to be re-heated. And while you might not want to prepare a casserole or a sheet of sausage rolls every night, you don’t need to panic every single morning about breakfast, especially now that school is starting.

You can start off small, with a batch of Scrambled Egg Muffins (courtesy of Food52: https://food52.com/recipes/24818-scrambled-egg-muffins) that you bake on Sunday afternoon. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. By Thursday you’ll feel confident enough to toss frozen, home made pancakes into the microwave. On Friday you’ll enjoy revving up the blender for a healthy, brainy avocado smoothie.

There are no more leisurely summer vacation breakfasts spent contentedly reading the local newspaper at a picnic table overlooking a lake from your summer rental. You can’t look for the perfect sunrise to immortalize on Instagram any more, either. You are back in the saddle, like it or not. And some of you have young folk who need to be stoked up and filled to the brim with healthy brain food every morning.

There’s a lot going on in those growing brains, and we know that we should be doing better than a bowl of Cap’n Crunch. We want them to concentrate, remember what they are learning, and keep their energy levels up until lunchtime. It is a daunting task, particularly when we are trying to eat good, healthy food.

A lot of the prepared foods are full of sugars, fat and salt; all the scrummy things we human beings adore. But they are not very healthy for us, I’m sad to say. And look at that fourth grader, staring moodily at you across the counter. Does he really want a bowl of heart-healthy oatmeal. Again? Not likely. So consider your audience as you peruse my handy dandy sheet of breakfast ideas.

I love repetition. I can eat a turkey sandwich every day for a week. But you might be a little more normal, and like to shake things up. When you bake a sheet of twelve muffins, that might seem like money in the bank. But only for a couple of days. Don’t plan on foisting off muffins on your first grader for the next twelve days. Even if he really seems to like them on Monday, by Thursday it will get ugly. Maybe you can consult with said child, and see what his take is, and maybe the two of you can make a plan. Rapid rotation is probably key!

Most mornings I have about enough energy and enthusiasm for a slice of cold pizza and the funnies. But given the proper motivation (this list) and a calming trip to the grocery store, even you can have a variety of healthy ingredients on hand to make some tempting make-ahead, back to back breakfasts. And then you can devote your worrying to charging the iPhones, signing permission slips, finding the sneakers, getting the laundry out of the dryer, putting the dog in his crate and finding your car keys.

Maybe the two (or three, four, five) of you can make it a weekly family event. Family Breakfast Prep Time might only last for the first couple of weeks of school before it comes crashing back down on your shoulders, but it could be a pleasant time for you all. Instead of sinking onto the sofa with HGTV after dinner, maybe you can whip up a little batch of granola – which can then be a cereal base, an ingredient in a yogurt parfait, or tossed into a smoothie or made into snack bars.

I have some great memories of times in the kitchen with our children. You can’t expect every minute to go smoothly, and you have to keep in mind that their attention spans can be short (it’s all that Cap’n Crunch they used to eat). Consider it a moment of triumph when someone learns to measure a cup of whole wheat flour, or lines the muffin pan with cute, crimped paper cups without first being asked. You can teach some life skills, like how to bake bacon, or wash blueberries or peel carrots. And first aid!

You are saving time from chaos and drama in the morning, and exercising those potentially sizable and vulnerable little brains. And it is time spent away from the electronic screens! Maybe after you figure breakfast out you can all go read a little Harry Potter. Magic!

Muffins,
smoothies,
eggs,
granola and muesli,
oatmeal,
pancakes,
fruits,
pizza,
bagels and breads

Muffins
http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/blueberry_maple_muffins.html

http://www.theseasonedmom.com/what-were-eating-two-ingredient-pumpkin-spice-mini-muffins/

http://wellnessmama.com/1084/breakfast-egg-muffins/

Smoothies
http://www.healthyeating.org/Healthy-Eating/Meals-Recipes/Browse-Search-Recipes/rid/7935/good-news-breakfast-smoothie.aspx

http://www.marthastewart.com/1047458/avocado-smoothie

http://www.rd.com/slideshows/8-healthy-fruit-smoothies-for-breakfast/%20

http://www.rd.com/food/breakfast-berryflaxseed-smoothie-recipe/

Eggs
http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/quick_breakfast_taco.html
http://www.superhealthykids.com/breakfast-egg-cups-recipe/

http://www.marthastewart.com/344419/breakfast-burrito

https://food52.com/blog/13227-the-hole-in-one-egg-in-the-hole

Granola and Muesli
http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2015/03/25/granola_without_measuring_a_template_for_delicious_homemade_cereal_video.html
http://www.chow.com/recipes/30062-basic-granola

http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/homemade-muesli

Oatmeal
http://www.marthastewart.com/315903/strawberry-oatmeal-breakfast

http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/recipe-collections-favorites/quick-easy/oatmeal-recipe/oatmeal-sunflower-seeds-agave-berry

Pancakes, waffles
http://www.superhealthykids.com/breakfast-egg-cups-recipe/

http://weelicious.com/2010/04/06/banana-bites/

http://www.marthastewart.com/334877/cinnamon-oat-pancakes

Fruits
http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/grapefruit-with-chile-and-rosemary

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2554641/grapefruit-agave-and-pistachio-salad

Pizza (I had to include it!)
http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/breakfast_mini_pizza.html

http://www.food.com/recipe/amazing-breakfast-pizza-134470

http://www.thedailymeal.com/recipes/sunny-side-breakfast-pizza

https://food52.com/blog/category/195-breakfast-of-champions

Bagels & Breads
http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/banana_peanut_butter_bagel.html

http://www.healthyeating.org/Healthy-Eating/Meals-Recipes/Browse-Search-Recipes/rid/8670/apple-bagel-sandwich.aspx

http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/smoked-trout-salad

http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/recipe-of-the-day-recipes/article/best-ever-bread

More reading…
http://www.buzzfeed.com/deenashanker/healthy-easy-breakfasts-your-kids-will-love#.mvX97QpqE

http://www.epicurious.com/archive/everydaycooking/family/backtoschoolquickeasyhealthybreakfast

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.”
― A.A. Milne

Food Friday: Chicken Cutlets for Your Summer Soul

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I have seamlessly slalomed down the slippery slope toward summertime kitchen entrapment. Last week I let Nigel Slater convince me that it was perfectly permissible to break my golden rule about cooking in the summertime. Oh, it is fine to steam a few ears of corn on top of the stove – as long as you eat the resulting buttery-dripping delights outside on the back porch. And yes, it will not offend the Lazy Summer Gods if you bake shortcakes, because how else are you possibly going to consume all those beauteous strawberries you found at the farmers’ market? Of course you can rustle up some bacon on a Sunday morning. But that is about it. Otherwise you may only consume any coolth that comes from the freezer, victuals grilled by other people, or eat onion rings from Dairy Queen, sitting in a car, sharing them with the dog. These activities all fall within the strict parameters of Limited Exposure to Cooking During the Hot Stinky Summer.

But then Nigel Slater warbled his siren song about really good Spaghetti Bolognese, and it was downhill for my natural and formidable abilities for avoiding the kitchen. I was listening to a perfectly charming 92Y podcast with Mark Bittman and Mario Batali, which was moderated by The New York Times food editor Sam Sifton while Luke (the wonder dog) and I were working on our 10,000 steps one day last week. (So many rules and goals in the summer!) And I allowed a crazy thought to rise to my over-heated consciousness. “Huh. That sounds good. That would be perfect for dinner Saturday night!” And there you have it. Along about step 8,527 my resolve was undone. I was planning on cooking a meal, in the house, on top of the stove, in the middle of the Hot Stinky Summer.
http://markbittman.com/dinner-with-bittman-roasted-chicken-cutlets-w/

Check iTunes for the podcast: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/92y-talks/id905112228?mt=2

And I can sling the hot sauce of blame on another couple of people: Anthony Bourdain and The Wall Street Journal, to name just two. I have just started watching Bourdain’s The Layover and he waxed poetical about chicken and rice during his layover in Singapore (where Mr. Friday was visiting right at that precise moment). Rice cooked with chicken stock is a specialty in Singapore, where it is always at least 85 degrees. Certainly if cooks in Singapore can stand the constant fiery state of a kitchen, who was I to complain? And I have central air conditioning…
http://www.travelchannel.com/shows/the-layover/video/tony-tries-chicken-rice

This is how I made the rice:
Chicken Broth , 2 cups
White Rice , 1 cup
1 tablespoon olive oil

I heat up the pan with the oil on a medium high temp, and sauté the rice for about a minute, then add the broth, and boil merrily for another minute, before lowering the heat, and covering the pan, and walking away for about 15 minutes. Give it a stir so it doesn’t stick. Keep it covered until all the broth is absorbed and the rice is tender. Serve with copious amounts of good European-style butter.

Interestingly, The Wall Street Journal supplied the idea of a summery panzanella salad. Theirs included peaches and burrata, which I thought would be an interesting summer variation on one of our favorite salad themes. I could not find burrata at our grocery store, so I used some fresh mozzarella which still tasted mighty fine and creamy. Plus I only turned the oven on for a just a wee little while, just to make the bread a little crunchier.
http://www.wsj.com/articles/tomato-and-stone-fruit-panzanella-with-burrata-1438957860

And dessert was strictly by the book. Yes, I whipped out the mini food processor and then the electric mixer, but I did not use any heat to the delightful Strawberry Fool, which took mere minutes to prepare. But to ensure my place in hell, I served it with a plateful of Pepperidge Farm cookies. Yumsters.
http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/10/the-minimalist-strawberry-fool/?_r=0

Join me in the ever capacious hand basket shooting full speed to hell. I confess well and truly, yesterday I cooked chicken and baked bacon to make my friend Chris’s world famous Club Chicken Salad. Deelightful.

Chris’s Chicken Club Salad

Serves 4

Cook 1/2 pound bacon, crisp and crumble (be sure to save the fat)
1 cup bread cubed (use nice, firm French bread – Pepperidge Farm white won’t work)
3 cups cooked chicken breast, cubed and chilled
2 fulsomely ripe tomatoes, quartered
1 head Romaine, torn (not cut) into bite-size piece

Dressing:
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon capers

Sauté the bread cubes in the bacon fat, tossing constantly to toast all the sides. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. (I harden our arteries a little with some Lawry’s Seasoning Salt.) Put the chicken in a bowl, cover with dressing, add the capers and toss to coat each piece with dressing. Chill for half an hour. Arrange lettuce on each plate and mound the chicken salad on the lettuce. Crumble the bacon on top, surround with tomato quarters and top each with the crunchy, wonderful croutons. Serve with a frosty cold beer. Yummm. Perfect for picnics.

“’Come with me,’ Mom says.
‘To the library.
Books and summertime
go together.’”
― Lisa Schroeder

Risk-a-licious by Kathy Bosin

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So, it’s 1969 in Limestone Acres.

A dynamic year – Nixon inaugurated. Man on the moon! Viet Nam. Woodstock. Haight Ashbury. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Easy Rider.

I was eight and my sister was six.

Screen Shot 2015-08-08 at 5.49.42 AMWe lived in a very quiet, conservative suburban community where kids rolled on bikes all summer long. The pool was 2 blocks away. I remember the first time a teenage boy (omg) referred to me in public as “Bosin!” I was horrified and delighted.

This post is a remembrance and a toast to Meg Glover.

Who?

She was a tall, slim, super white skinned, black haired beauty, about 15 years old. She and her sister wore long dresses – religious? I have no idea. Fashion? Doubt it. Yet – incredibly dramatic! It was rumored that they went to “charm school” – an item that my mother often used as a threat. She’d say “keep that up and you’ll have to go to charm school like Meg and Lisa Glover.” Horrors!! We heard they had to wear long white gloves and walk all day balancing telephone books on their heads. Big threat to us slackers. Being sent to charm school was the major fear for good girls like us in 1969.

But when she was hired as our babysitter, we couldn’t hide our excitement! Meg Glover, whoa! (How cool are we?)

On the first evening she came, she said “let’s make pizza!”

Gasp!

My sister, 6 years old, knew this was a danger – “we’re not allowed to use the oven!”

Meg looked at me, the eldest.

I shivered inside. “Yes, we can. Do it.”

She took four slices of white bread and squirted ketchup on them. Spread with a knife, and covered with a slice of American cheese – all of which, of course, were in the 1969 house refrigerator (white).

She put them in the OVEN.

OMG!

And pulled them out ten minutes later.

Even though it tasted nothing like pizza…I loved it. It was the challenge, the risk, the courage to do it!

So tonight, when I came home after a long day and Kevin had two entire lots of tomatoes making spicy ketchup on the simmer, I knew what we were having for supper.

Yup. In honor of Meg Glover, we had “pizza”. It rocked. I didn’t even have to put in in the oven and melt the cheese to remember that moment of freedom, risk, choice.

POWER!

Food Friday: Breaking the Rules

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Beware of rabbit holes. With just a flick of my iPhone I managed to destroy my strict annual summer No Cooking Rule. That’s all it took. A little idle curiosity while driving with Mr. Friday, and suddenly, on a Saturday night, I was chopping onions and garlic and tending to a pan of simmering meats and tomatoes. I had turned on the stove and was cooking. In the summer. When my default mode is to eat only cool salads, watermelon, peaches, strawberries and ice cream. When someone else tends the grill and I picturesquely sip frosty flutes of light and refreshing Prosecco. I picture myself in a nimbus of gauzy sunlight, wearing a flow-y white frock. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. And yet, it was quite fun and novel standing in the kitchen, peering into a hot saucepan, anticipating a good meal.

Quite often when I am driving with Mr. Friday I whip out the smart phone to answer life’s difficult questions. You know the kind of thing I mean, when you have to know immediately what was John Wayne’s last movie? What time is it in Sydney? Was “On Broadway” really in that old Radio Free Europe television commercial? But here was the killer; innocently I Googled “Food52 weekend entertaining”. And that’s when Nigel Slater’s Really Good Spaghetti Bolognese became part of our food canon. https://food52.com/recipes/26984-nigel-slater-s-really-good-spaghetti-bolognese

We had been trying to think of something other than our usual steak or pork chops or grilled pizza to have for dinner when we would be entertaining a new friend. One of my bad habits is that I think nothing of trying new recipes on company. Which means dinner parties at our house are often fraught with peril. Sometimes things fail miserably: the soufflé falls, the cream doesn’t whip, the cake self-immolates, the risotto is runny. Luckily we usually have enough cheap white wine to gloss over any imperfections, and people have been known to return.

The Spaghetti Bolognese was a great recipe. It was a little time consuming, as the mixture needed to simmer for at least an hour to an hour and a half, but I was able to swan around and fold napkins and fluff the hydrangeas, while stirring, occasionally, and gulping down the aforementioned Prosecco. And luckily there were tasty nibbly snacks and good music. With dinner we also had bread, a little salad and bowls of sliced peaches that were lightly dressed in a snow drift of freshly whipped cream. And the summer continues on its course. Perhaps I can boil up a pot of pasta every now and then. It will keep me in practice for winter. It is good to break the rules, as they say, otherwise we would never enjoy some of the fleeting forbidden pleasures.

I always think that the folks at Food52 are the cool kids. They have excellent ideas, and are witty and irreverent. You should try listening to their podcasts, too: https://food52.com/blog/12480-announcing-burnt-toast-the-food52-podcast
They have more sources for the unusual than we basic home cooks, but we can make adjustments. My grocery store doesn’t carry pancetta, but the thick sliced applewood smoked bacon I substituted seemed to work just fine.
The comments in parentheses are mine.

Nigel Slater’s Really Good Spaghetti Bolognese

Serves 4
For the bolognese
• 4 tablespoons butter
• 3 ounces cubed pancetta (I diced 4 slices of thick cut grocery store-sourced bacon)
• 1 medium onion
• 2 fat cloves garlic
• 1 carrot
• 2 stalks celery
• 2 large, flat mushrooms such as portobello, about 4 ounces (I left the mushrooms out)
• 2 bay leaves
• 1 pound ground beef or lamb
• 1 cup crushed tomatoes or passata
• ¼ cup red wine
• ¾ cup stock
• 1 nutmeg (I used McCormack’s ground nutmeg, quelle horreur!)
• ¾ cup half-and-half or cream

For serving
• Spaghetti or tagliatelle for 4 (I used Buitoni fresh linguine)
• Grated Parmesan
1. Melt the butter in a large, heavy-based pot — then stir in the pancetta and let it cook for five minutes or so, without coloring much. Meanwhile peel and finely chop the onion and garlic and stir them into the pancetta. Peel and finely chop the carrot and celery and stir them in, too. Lastly, finely chop the mushrooms and add to the pan, then tuck in the bay leaves and leave to cook for ten minutes over a moderate heat, stirring frequently.
2. Turn up the heat and tip in the meat, breaking it up well with a fork.
3. Now leave to cook without stirring for a good three or four minutes, then, as the meat on the bottom is starting to brown, stir again, breaking up the meat where necessary, and leave to color.
4. Mix in the tomatoes, red wine, stock, a grating of nutmeg and some salt and black pepper, letting it come to the boil. Turn the heat down so that everything barely bubbles. There should be movement, but one that is gentle, not quite a simmer. Partially cover the pan with a lid and leave to putter away for an hour to an hour and a half, stirring from time to time and checking the liquid levels. You don’t want it to be dry.
5. Pour in the half-and-half or cream a bit at a time, stir and continue cooking for twenty minutes. Check the seasoning, then serve with the pasta and grated Parmesan.

“It is impossible not to love someone who makes toast for you. ”
― Nigel Slater

Save the Date: Environmental Concern’s 13th Annual Plant Sale Set for September 11 & 12

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Talbot: Environmental Concern’s 13th Annual Fall Native Plant Sale dates are September 11th and 12th from 9:00-4:00. Join us on EC’s campus at 201 Boundary Lane in historic St. Michaels.

Select from the largest collection of locally grown native herbaceous plants, trees and shrubs in the region. EC specializes in native plants grown from seed and propagated on-site. Contact Clark for additional information: call 410-745-9620 or e-mail nursery-sales@wetland.org.

All proceeds from the plant sale will help fund EC’s mission to improve water quality and enhance native habitat in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. EC is a 501(c)3 public not-for-profit organization.

Flavors of St. Michaels Cookbook Provides Funding for St. Michaels Woman’s Club Scholarship

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Create the distinctive taste of the Eastern Shore in your kitchen with The Woman’s Club of St. Michaels cookbook, Flavors of St Michaels, Volume II. Many of the club’s best cooks contributed favorite recipes in eight categories including appetizers, seafood, main dishes, breakfasts, and desserts. Using various locally available ingredients of bay, farm, and field, the over 350 recipes are perfect for family meals or entertaining. The cookbook makes an ideal holiday, hostess or housewarming gift. Each cookbook purchase includes a free, high-quality cloth gift bag, creating a unique presentation.

All proceeds from the $20 cookbook will be used to support the Scholarship Fund. Each year The Woman’s Club of St. Michaels awards $6,000 to a deserving senior from St. Michaels High School who is heading to higher education. This year’s recipient, Julia Jester, is able to begin her college career in the Fall thanks to this generous scholarship.

Flavors of St. Michaels, Volume II is available at local merchants. It will also be available at local events. For more information: http://wcstm.com/ or email: womansclub@wcstm.com .

Food Friday: Enjoying the Heat?

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I can barely walk Luke the Wonder Dog in all this heat. We open the front door, only to be blasted backward with eyebrow-singeing heat waves. He has figured out how to walk in the shadows cast by buildings later in the afternoon, but the 11:30 walk is brutal. The sun is relentless and steadily broils the tops of our heads as we scurry around the clumps of blooming crepe myrtles, through a parking lot shimmering with heat, around the corner, through the sun-crisped weeds, trekking over the undulating brick sidewalk, and eventually pull ourselves back into the coolth of the house. The walk only lasts about 20 minutes. He lies panting on the chilly tile bathroom floor for half an hour, and I change out of my literal sweats. Again. Remind me in the dead of winter how much I enjoy summer, please.

Luckily, when I am barely strong enough to turn another page of my current mystery novel, I have a cool summer dinner strategy. I have a stash of farm-fresh vegetables, some good bread, with a couple of bottles of cheap white wine cooling merrily in the fridge. There are Popsicles in the freezer. I can check dinner off the Worry List – it can practically make itself. The trick is to acquire and actually use fresh vegetables. All too often I forget about the cucumber, and a week later I find a baggie of green goo in the bottom of the vegetable bin. It is a sad business when a cucumber oozes away.

Here is a list of summer vegetables and some staples I try to have on hand to relieve my heat prostration:

Eggplant
Onions (green, purple and Vidalia)
Green peppers
Red peppers
Jalepeno peppers
Habanero peppers
Tomatoes (heirloom, Roma, Campari, canned)
Zucchinis (this is summer after all, and folks will soon be piling these home-grown
beauties, anonymously, on your front porch, in the dead of the night!)
Basil, basil, basil
Cucumbers
Parsley
Cilantro
Lime juice
Watermelon
Radishes
Feta cheese
Mint leaves
Olive oil
Vinegar
Garlic
Bread
Sea salt
Capers
Anchovies (I’d rather not, thanks)
Serano ham
Manchego cheese
Bacon (because you can add bacon to just about anything and make something
wonderful)
Yogurt
Blender

And here are some lovely, cool and easy recipes. The Chez Panisse Ratatouille is listed in case you need to show off and don’t mind standing at the stove for a little while. We are having some business acquaintances over for dinner next week, so I think we will try to impress with that. But if it is too hot for me to abandon Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers with that nasty trip wire murder in Essex, I think the Little Observationist Gazpacho will fit the bill admirably. I might up the dessert ante a little bit, though, and slice some peaches over bowls of vanilla ice cream. Yumsters. I do love summer. Remind me again this winter…

We like this salad, but surprisingly, Mr. Friday (who is such a caper devotée) prefers it without the capers. You try it and let us know.
Panzanella Salad:
http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/bread-recipes/panzanella-tuscan-tomato-bread-salad/#LV39AbqTHAU2GTDo.97

If you have ever longed to live a charmed life in London you should visit this highly entertaining blog: http://www.littleobservationist.com/ Ex-pat Stephanie travels, takes excellent envy-inducing photos, wines, dines and gets to preview the Royal Chelsea Flower Show among her many London adventures. It is one of my favorite blogs. This is a recipe she shared this week when her husband prepared Jorge’s Refreshing Summer Gazpacho:
http://www.littleobservationist.com/2015/07/08/recipe-jorges-refreshing-summer-gazpacho/#more-9576

Our super cool friends at Food52 are always looking for new and quick and tasty. We love this Fresh Hot Salsa with some warm tortilla chips and some cold beer:
https://food52.com/recipes/13510-fresh-hot-salsa

It can’t get much easier or tastier than this Rachel Ray Tomato and Onion Salad:
http://www.rachaelray.com/recipes/tomato-pepper-and-onion-salad

The Smitten Kitchen even helps us combine dessert fruit with the main course, cutting down on the number of dishes to be washed and overall prep time, Chopped Vegetable, Watermelon and Feta Salad:
http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2008/07/chopped-vegetable-watermelon-and-feta-salad/

Slice and dice to impress with Chez Panisse Ratatouille:
http://www.cookooree.com/u/lizdunn/recipes/chez-panisse-ratatouille

“Summertime, oh, summertime, pattern of life indelible, the fade-proof lake, the woods unshatterable, the pasture with the sweetfern and the juniper forever and ever . . . the cottages with their innocent and tranquil design, their tiny docks with the flagpole and the American flag floating against the white clouds in the blue sky, the little paths over the roots of the trees leading from camp to camp. This was the American family at play, escaping the city heat.”
― E.B. White

Chesapeake Cats and Dogs Plan for New Home in Wye Mills

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Chesapeake Cats and Dogs, the Stevensville, MD based, non-profit animal shelter, has announced their intention to purchase a property behind Chesapeake College in order to expand their operation into a pet sanctuary.

According to Kathy Thomas, President of Chesapeake Cats and Dogs, the new venture will be called the Tree of Life Pet Sanctuary. “This is an exciting new direction for us that will allow us to help area residents by providing a safe haven for their dogs and cats if they should be unable to care for them due to health and personal issues, or even the death of their owner”, said Thomas.

The new location consists of more than 5 acres and a c.1900 farm house. Future plans include the building of a large sanctuary that will include indoor and outdoor living spaces for the animals, a multi-purpose room and a place where Chesapeake College students can take a break from their studies to commune with the animals.

There is a Indiegogo fundraiser page here