Food Friday: All Day, Every Day Cornbread


Perhaps it is true of all breads that they can be eaten at any meal, all day and every day. I remember my wicked delight in gobbling up a petite, perfectly baked baguette and drinking scalding hot chocolate at the pensione when I spent a week in Paris. Bread and chocolate for breakfast! How exotic and wonderful it was to pretend to be French. It was easy to do as I strolled along the river, hoping to be mistaken as a graceful, mousy blonde, American Gigi, who knew little French and less about sophistication.

Years ago, when I lived in London, I often visited a pub around the corner from our flat that served free sandwiches at lunch – which is when I discovered the sinus-clearing side effect of liberal lashings of Colman’s mustard on a warm, fresh baguette piled high with sliced turkey. Those days have gone by, too. I doubt if pubs in London give away sandwiches any more. But then, I can’t remember the last time I had a couple of beers for lunch, either.

Growing up we had Pepperidge Farm Parker House rolls for ceremonial birthday dinners, but when I lived in North Carolina, those same Parker House rolls were an acceptable substitute for homemade biscuits when serving brunch ham biscuits, with a milder spicy brown mustard and thin slices of onion and a wisp of Swiss cheese. We don’t do bunch much, either, any more. And I remember the breakfast sausage biscuits were the best at Jan’s House diner, in Jamestown, North Carolina. Carbs are us.

There is not a week that goes by that we don’t have garlic bread at dinner. That might be the one varietal that does not translate into something palatable for breakfast. Though one might argue that pizza is just as redolent with garlic, yet we find pizza perfectly acceptable for breakfast, even if the grown up nutritionists among us might look askance that we have not put our childish college ways behind us…

Have you started watching The Great British Baking Show on PBS? It is a competitive cooking program with grace, humor and manners. I do not normally watch reality television programs, but this show is unusually cheerful and chipper. It is totally wonderful, and ridiculously I cannot stop buttonholing people, jabbering on about its many charms.

I used to think I was a decent baker, until I saw the incredible range of skills required in that baking tent. The bakers have produced a prodigious assortment of cakes, pies, biscuits, rolls, breads, pastries, baklavas, profriteroles, macarons, and Choux pastries; the list goes on and on – the show has been broadcasting for five seasons, after all. I have discarded my early romantic notion of a French way of life, now I would like to be a competent, amateur British baker.

The winsome and hardy, non-professional British bakers would not flinch at the thought of baking a baguette, or a Parker House roll. They would not feel challenged by baking bagels, baguettes, batards or boules. They would not break into a vulgar sweat at the notion of baking Southern breakfast biscuits or twirling out some brioche.

Sadly, since I am not likely to emigrate this week to be discovered by the BBC, I must take my head out of the fantasy clouds of Sachertortes and puffy crème pâtissière, and worry about whipping up a batch of humble cornbread to go with the vat o’chili I am making to keep us warm this weekend. And happily, cornbread is in my skill set. I can bake it since it does not require yeast or kneading or ingredient weighing. And it is something we can cheerfully eat at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Every day. The Tall One goes through mountains of cornbread when he puts in an appearance, which validates my time spent in the kitchen.

Here is the Mark Bittman’s recipe for cornbread – the easiest recipe of all – leaving me time to get back to and reruns of The Great British Baking Show:
Our friends at Food52 hit a homer with this recipe – which is very appealing to all of the bacon lovers around here. Last weekend, when we had a houseful of family, you could see the cloud of bacon grease over our house – we must have cooked three pounds in two days! Everyone’s fave was the bacon infused pancakes. And we wonder why we waddle!

And if you want to wander through some of your own French daydreams, here is an entertaining blog and website. It never hurts to have crème pâtissière skills honed and up-to-the-minute – you might want to bake éclairs for breakfast sometime soon!

“To each other, we were as normal and nice as the smell of bread. We were just a family. In a family even exaggerations make perfect sense.” –John Irving

Arborist Scott Lussier to speak on “Effective Pruning Methods & Practices” March 11

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The Garden Club of the Eastern Shore welcomes Arborist Scott Lussier of Oakwood Tree Care Professionals to speak on “Effective Pruning Methods & Practices” Wednesday, March 11, 2015 at 11:30 AM at the Talbot County Library in Easton. The program is free and open to the public.

Scott Lussier has twenty years’ experience in the green industry, the last six of which were spent as an arborist and a pesticide applicator at the prestigious Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA. Lussier led Longwood’s Arboriculture class in their Professional Gardener Training Program and taught “Planting and Transplanting Trees and Shrubs” and “How to Prune Small Trees” in the Continuous Education Program.

However, Lussier’s resume extends far beyond Longwood. He earned a degree in Forestry from Penn State University and is now one of a handful of people in the USA to have earned both accreditations, the ISA’s Board Certified Master Arborist (#PD-0358B) and ASCA’s registered Consulting Arborist (RCA #447).

He instructs classes for HACC (Harrisburg Area Community College) and Hershey Gardens and serves as a board member of the Tanger Arboretum and in the Lancaster community. In 2005, Lussier embarked on a new venture, Oakwood Tree Care Professions, Inc. which serves south-central Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Food Friday: Saving Your Bacon Valentine Granola Bars


If you have been snowbound in New England or if you have somehow managed to forget about Valentine’s Day which has been crammed down our throats since December 24, here is the life-saving answer for you: you can make a nice homemade batch of granola bars with ingredients I hope you have on hand already, and wrap them up in brown parchment paper and colorful twine, and look wonderfully whole earthy and romantic AND kindhearted.

We all know that homemade gifts are the best, even if we also know in our heart of hearts that they were probably assembled in haste, with clumsy fingers, but all the best intentions by people we love, who do not want to slide down that slippery slope to Valentine’s Day purdah. Homemade granola says loving better than the hurried purchase of the last sad, droopy bunch of red and white carnations from the grocery store. Plus, there is chocolate. But no preservatives. And no plastic wrapping! What an intuitive, environmentally sensitive person you are!

Go rummage around in the kitchen cabinets and pull out the rolled oats, the cashews, some raisins, dried cherries, honey, peanuts, almonds and cinnamon, and hope that you have chocolate chips tucked away under the rafters someplace. You are about to make a sweet Valentine’s Day present, and you are also solving snack and breakfast issues. You are practically noble for your efforts and concerns! Look at the cute snacks! Look at those little hearts! And won’t the crumbly bits be great stirred into breakfast yogurt? Amazing. I bet the executives from The Great British Baking Show are going to get in touch with you any minute now! Granola is much more complex than Rice Krispies Treats…

We are also attaching a Valentine card image at the end of the article today that you can print, so you look like the authentically kind, considerate, caring and loving person that you really are if you could just remember that Christmas AND Valentine’s Day roll around every year. Unlike the political cycle, Valentine’s Day is dependable and returns every February, just like the groundhog. But it can be a day rife with romantic neediness and it can be an emotional minefield.

I’ve included the links to a couple of cutting edge granola theories. The folks at Slate Magazine had a granola competition a couple of years ago – it must have been a slow news week – and four varieties of granola were blind taste-tested. Stephen Metcalf’s did not win. But you can judge for yourself.

Get cracking! Romance is in the air. Or is it the roasting nuts?

Homemade Granola Bars
YIELD: 24 servings

2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup wheat germ
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup honey
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup dried sour cherries, chopped
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
3/4 cup slivered almonds

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Mix together the oats, brown sugar, wheat germ, cinnamon, flour, and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center, and pour in the honey, egg, oil and vanilla.
3. Mix well using your hands, add in cherries, chocolate chips and almonds. Pat the mixture evenly into the prepared pan.
4. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until the bars begin to turn golden around the edges. Cool on wire rack for about 30 minutes before cutting. Do not allow the bars to cool completely before cutting because they will crumble.

“Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold.”

― Zelda Fitzgerald

Food Friday for Valentine’s Day Card 2015

Maryland Raw Milk Cheese Makers Get to Keep Their Cheesy Grins

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Dairy cows, goats and sheep will stay cheesy in Maryland under a bill presented Thursday.

After a successful five-year pilot program that enabled five dairy farms in Maryland to produce raw milk cheese from cows, goats and sheep, legislators on the Senate Finance Committee were easily in support of changing the program to be a more long-term business opportunity.

The changes to the program include allowing farms to renew their license for cheese production every year, not limiting herd size to 120 animals or fewer and making more than five cheese producer permits available.

State Senator Adelaide C. Eckardt, R-Caroline, Dorchester, Talbot and Wicomico, sponsored the bill presented Thursday, wanting support in “passing this initiative so our dairies can keep selling cheese.”

Raw milk cheese, also known as farmstead cheese, means that the milk used has not been pasteurized to kill harmful bacteria, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Association.

Under proper precautions and frequent health inspector visits, “the farmstead cheese program has proven to be successful,” said Laurie Bucher, chief of the Center for Milk and Dairy Product Safety within the state’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Holly Foster, owner of the Chapel’s Country Creamery in Easton said her cow farm would lose a quarter of its profits if changes were not made to the farmstead cheese legislation.

“We’re known for our raw milk Bay Blue — we’ve been making it for over four years now,” said Foster. “Our livelihood is on the desk of legislation today.”

Foster said the herd size limit was originally installed to decrease the chances of disease and to keep production to family-owned businesses, but also limited sheep dairy farmers’ cheese production, as sheep produce less milk than cows and goats.

“(These alterations to the original bill) will support the needed diversity in the dairy industry as the dairy industry changes,” Bucher said, including the need to use milk from different animals.

By Katelyn Newman
Capital News Service

Food Friday: Weekend Pancakes


It is almost time for the weekend! And weekends mean real breakfasts. Eggs, bacon, pancakes…Traditionally, eggs and fats were forbidden during Lent. On Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent starts, pancakes were rustled up to make good use of any of the tempting sinful ingredients that were cluttering up the larder. Pancakes are the last indulgence before the forty days of slim pickings during Lent. We don’t often eschew pancakes. We tend to err on the side of pleasure – ascetics are not us. So in the scant time before Lent, let the pancake flipping begin!

Pancakes are weekend food. Unless you happen to be a Walton, and have Ma and Granny downstairs puttering around in the kitchen every morning, whipping up biscuits and oatmeal and rashers of yummy bacon. We tend to be grouchy crunchy cereal people during the week, barely looking up from the newspaper to make civilized chatter. Peeling a banana is about as fancy as we get in food prep on a workday morning.

Weekends are different. And glorious. It seems as if there is an abundance of leisure time; when it is pleasurable and we feel unrushed and we can actually talk and laugh and plan how many trips to the hardware store we think we are going to need to make. And will we be able to pencil in a nap? Or a movie? The endless possibilities that present themselves at the beginning of a weekend!

We have noticed that the meals over which the most time is devoted are the meals that get eaten in the shortest amount of time imaginable. Thanksgiving takes at least a day to prepare, and the meal’s temporal length is about 20 minutes. Pancakes practically disappear in a snap as they are transported from the griddle to the plate. A nanosecond is spent pouring the maple syrup and cutting a little square of salty butter. Then the pancakes vaporize as quickly as the dog’s kibble is scarfed up. Ten minutes to mix, 20 minutes to let the batter rest, 20 minutes to cook, equals about three minutes to devour.

There is a nice rhythm and tempo preparing the pancakes, though. (Assuming you square away the bacon before you start pouring pancake batter.) Measuring and stirring, testing the griddle with a drop of water, tasting the bacon, wasting the first batch, pouring out the second, third and fourth servings, watching the pancakes bubble, dropping one for the dog, flipping pancakes one-handed with Merrie Melody aplomb. Whoops. Another pancake for the dog. Maybe it is just the good Saturday-morning-cartoon vibe. It is time to enjoy. I remember watching my brother make pancakes when I was a tot, and thinking how wise he was in the ways of the kitchen, because he knew to wait for the bursting bubbles to slow down before turning the pancake. What a brilliant guy!

We are getting a little fancier these days. We remember fondly the Maine vacation where we picked our own Sal-like blueberries for the breakfast pancakes. Another summer trip is remembered mostly for the friend who added peaches to the pancakes– amazingly deelish. The Tall One likes chocolate chip pancakes. The Pouting Princess likes bacon “infused” pancakes. I spent a summer during college waitressing at an iHop, which, amazingly, didn’t cause any sort of lifelong aversion to the humble flapjack. This is a good thing, Martha.

Buttermilk Pancakes

3 eggs, separated
1 2/3 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted
Beat the yolks until pale and smooth.
Beat in the buttermilk and then the baking soda and mix well.
Sift in the dry ingredients mixing as you add; make sure the batter is smooth.
Add in the melted butter and mix well.
Beat the egg whites in another bowl until stiff.

Fold into the batter until no white bits are visible.
Let batter stand about 20 minutes before pouring out pancakes.
Make sure your griddle is really hot – do the water test.
Ladle batter onto griddle; turn when bubbles form across the cakes and allow to lightly brown on the second side.
Serve with lots warm maple syrup and sweet salty butter and lots of bacon. And tall glasses of cold milk. Yumsters!

Impressive vacation-worthy pancakes from our friends at Food52:

And if all else fails – Bisquick pancakes taste fine, too!

“Hope makes a good breakfast. Eat plenty of it.”
― Ian Fleming

Food Friday: Simply Chicken Potpie


I have been out of town this week, so here is a merry little stroll back in time, in our own Spy Tardis:

On a recent dark and stormy night I was about to go through the motions of whipping up an uninspired stir fry of chicken, peas, onions, carrots and some celery for crunch, but it didn’t seem like a warm, inviting meal for a raw winter day. It’s not that I harbor any illusions that coming home to our house every night is a journey to Martha-in-Wonderland, but sometimes I like to pretend that Mrs. Cleaver lives here. Even though I do not wear the high heels and the starched shirtwaist dress, I am wearing pearls along with the scarf, the sweater and the turtleneck. I bet even Mrs. Cleaver would be wearing woolies this week! And clad in her double-thick black leggings, Mrs. Cleaver would use these same ingredients to bake an amazing chicken potpie.

Here is something to keep in your freezer at all times of the year – a package of puff pastry. This is essential, Home Ec 101 information. Write it down. In cursive! Or tell Siri to remind you the next time you go to the Food Lion: “Buy puff pastry.”

I have used store-bought pie shells in the past because I am hopeless at home made. Everyone would politely shovel the chicken concoctions into their hungry little mouths. But the puff pastry made this pie an occasion! It was spectacular! It was as if Jiffy Pop Pop Corn had waved a magic wand over my chicken pie ordinaire, and puffed it upward and outward with importance and historical significance. Well, it looked very pretty when it came out of the oven, and was warmer and more comforting than that pedestrian chicken stir fry would have been.

I used the same ingredients that would have gone into the stir fry, with the addition of the puff pastry, and some chicken broth. And a little flour. I’ll trot out some other recipes for you later – but you need to keep it simple, for your own sanity. I read one recipe that wanted me to weave strips of pastry into a latticework on top of the pie. That was sheer foolishness. The pastry rises and looms like ocean cliffs – do not diminish that drama by getting all crafty. Use that time you would have been weaving pastry strips (like those long ago potholders) wisely. Dig out the latest Garden & Gun Magazine and plan your Mardi Gras strategy instead.

I boiled a boneless chicken breast, although if you have a leftover roasted chicken, you can pull off enough meat for a pie for two people. After boiling the breast, I chopped it up and shredded it – the howling cat was very grateful that my knife skills need some polishing, as some shreds flew off the cutting board into her KP area. I chopped up a couple of carrots, some celery, and half an onion, and tossed them into a frying pan with some butter for a few minutes. The onion should be translucent and fragrant. Then I added a handful of flour and 2 cups of chicken broth and the chicken. (Sometimes I skip the flour and the broth and just add Campbell’s Cream of Chicken Soup and a little milk.) After everything heated up and bubbled along nicely, I poured the mixture into my cute little Le Creuset baking dish. But a pie pan works just as well. (Remember, I am waiting for Mr. Cleaver, and want to make a favorable impression. Sometimes Ward has had a rough day down at the insurance office, or wherever it is that he works…)

Roll the thawed dough out on a floured surface, just to take out the creases. Then lay it on top of your pan, and with kitchen sheers, or even your office Fiskars, trim the excess dough, leaving about half an inch hanging over the edge of the pan, for drama.

Whisk an egg with a little water, and then brush it across the pastry. It will add color and a shiny surface to the pastry. Then remember to cut a few slits in the dough to let steam escape during the baking process.

Put the pastry-topped pan on top of a cookie sheet, and pop in a 375°F oven for about 30 to 35 minutes. See – you didn’t need to waste your time basket weaving at all. And now there is a little extra time to read a The Goldfinch, or chill the wine, or to watch last night’s Daily Show. Ward wouldn’t have enjoyed the spectacle of woven pastry as much as he is going to enjoy this huge, flying buttress of a chicken potpie.

I like The Pioneer Woman website. She has a droll sense of humor. I could imagine spending a little quality time with her out on the prairie. Although I do not have turmeric – so I will never know exactly what her pie tastes like:

Here’s Martha’s take, although she spends quality time worrying about the crust. “Pshaw!” I say! Worry about your time with young Theo Decker instead!

“Promises and pie-crust are made to be broken.”
-Jonathan Swift

Winter In and Out by Bobbie Brittingham

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It is amazing how much time and energy plus money that it takes to pull off the Christmas Holidays. Heaving all the decorations out of the attic, garage, basement or from under the bed is only the mere start of this annual hectic time. The amount of strategy and planning is not something that is in my daily routine. Trying to keep some of the hallowed family traditions alive is demoralizing. Some have grudgingly made their way to my memory’s historical archives of Christmases past. I have to utilize every brain cell I have to get only the most important and reverent of treasured traditions accomplished. Then within an a few days it all has to be untangled, re-wrapped, re-boxed, repaired, and restored or rather re-stuffed back in its obscure hiding place.

Now that Christmas is packed away, and the house is in some state of normal caucus it may seem a little uninteresting or lacking some visual interest. It will be a long time until spring brings some color to the garden for you to bring into the house. The outside landscape which now is a depressing gray and tan and brown. Lovely for the spirit. The solution is to bring something living into the house. Of the animal, vegetable, and mineral choices, the vegetable seems a less complicated choice. Many of the garden centers, if open, will have a selection of green or blooming houseplants for that touch of life in the winter home. Unless you received one as a gift or bought the traditional poinsettia. To me, poinsettias are a plant for a two weeks and then can go to the heavily endowed plant heaven. Trying to keep and bring them to an adequate blooming phase next year is not worth the extreme effort required to do so. MUCH easier and better results to purchase a new one next year. If you want to try something more fun and rewarding, just go to the vegetable bin. There you can find many items that can be seduced into growing inside the house during the winter. A sweet potato suspended in or just touching some water will send roots into the water and then a vine will begin to grow, and it will not stop for a long time. The pretty purpled leaves love the sun and will continue to ramble where you lead them. A regular white potato will give some good results, but I prefer the color of the sweet potato. If you use a glass container then, you can keep an eye on the water level, and children will delight in watching the roots growing.

Another vegetable is an avocado pit. Arrange three or four toothpicks around the side of the pit and suspend over water. It will sprout, and a green tree trunk will start to grow. It can be potted in soil after it has developed several leaves. I know some people who have kept these going for years. I am not sure if they have had a harvest yet, but just the fun of growing it is enough reward. I have heard onions, carrots, and even a pineapple can all be handled in similar manners. These are fun activities to help bring a little life into the home. Somehow just adding some living green or color to your inside spaces will lift and brighten the internal spirit.

Now, on the other hand, if you have started to force some daffodil, tulip or amaryllis bulbs you have those to look forward to bloom inside. Or, just buy a handsome new green or blooming (favorite – orchid) houseplant that are readily available at many stores. Many don’t cost too much and can give months of pleasure. In the summer, you can move the houseplants to your outside living spaces. In any event to brighten your public and private living spaces that can become forlorn after the bright and sparkly decorations of Christmas are removed add a fresh lovely houseplant or a blooming plant They will instantly make you realize that spring will come even if the weather outside is frightful.

I often walk in the garden during the somewhat warmer days of winter looking for a little life of some form that will show me the garden has not gone to bed forever. This is a good time to look at your garden and ask questions. Questions that help achieve the look you want. If you don’t know what look you want then, it might be the time to decide. Even the most beautiful natural garden has had a little bit of help to get it there. Sometimes mother nature gets a little carried away and needs to be reined in. With any good garden, there need to be some architectural structure. These are called the backbones or BONES of the garden. They give the garden a solid feeling. They are supporting the rest of the plants in a visual pleasing, balanced way. These features can be manmade such as a fence, columns, arbor, gate, a large urn or pot, a bird bath, anything that will give the eye something solid to look at. The bones can be of plant material such as evergreens, ornamental grasses that have been left with their blossoms on and even the trunks of trees and shrubs can add that visual interest with their structure and bark texture. These can all add visual interest when the winter season clamps down and not much else is in the landscape.

So now is a good time to take stock of your garden’s bones. If you don’t see these bones/visual interest it will present an opportunity to explore some solutions. The many nursery and garden catalogues that have started to arrive with their enticing pictures and descriptions should enable you to find some answers. They are always filled with ideas for containers, border designs, problem area solutions and plant companions. I caution not to be combined into think that your garden will look like the pictures. Seldom does anyone’s garden look like the picture. Not even the garden the picture was taken in looks like the picture. They are all Photoshopped. But the catalogues can offer many different and exciting ideas that you can adapt to your own situation. Dreaming about how you would love your garden to look is a wonderful way to spend the afternoon in a sunny spot looking out the window at your picture perfect garden.


Garden Club of the Eastern Shore Accepting Scholarship Applications

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Graduating seniors attending high school in Talbot County and expecting to major in horticulture, landscape architecture or design, botany, environmental science, agriculture or a related field may be eligible for a scholarship of up to $3,500.00 from the Garden Club of the Eastern Shore (GCES). Scholarship applications are available from guidance counselors in all Talbot County high schools. They may also be obtained by calling 410-770-9035. Applications are due back to the guidance counselors’ offices by the close of school on April 3, 2015.

The GCES Scholarship is merit based. Outstanding academic achievement along with volunteer or work experience, which shows a strong work ethic and a commitment to excellence, will be considered when evaluating applications.

GCES President Margo McConnel says: “We are so pleased to be able to offer this award for the 15th year. Previous recipients have become teachers, researchers, landscape architects and designers, and environmental educators. They are all making important contributions both here on the Shore and in other parts of the country.”

The GCES is committed to promoting environmentally sound landscape practices and to providing educational programs for the community that explore conservation practices and environmental issues. It maintains several gardens in the community including those at Thompson Park, the Academy Art Museum, and the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.

In celebration of its 50th anniversary, the GCES, in partnership with the Town of Easton, has undertaken an extensive restoration of Thompson Park. Community members and businesses interested in contributing to this $80,000.00 effort can find additional information at

For information about GCES programs or to make a contribution to the scholarship fund, please call 410-770-9035.

Food Friday: National Pizza Week


Please accept my deepest apologies for never having recognized (or celebrated) National Pizza Week before this year. What could I have been thinking? The second week of January is a time to revel in hot cheese, good sauce, toppings (or not) and fabulous crust (thin, thick or deep dish). Pizza, like cake, is the perfect food. Long live the pizzaterians!

I grew up in a household where going out for pizza was the supreme treat. We were even permitted to have a glass of orange soda! Of course, we only ate plain cheese pizza pie. My parents grew up in New Haven, home of Sally’s Apizza; in their hearts the home of the purest, best American pizza. They were stodgy, no nonsense New Englanders, by gum. Plain and simple pizza only, thank you; unadorned by unnecessary. What more could you possibly want or need? The slices at Pellicci’s (our hometown favorite Italian restaurant) were the size of formal dinner napkins, so my brother and I learned early on how to fold the molten lava slices into airplane shapes which fit nicely in our hungry, gaping maws. But it wasn’t until junior high and experiencing hot lunch in the cafeteria that I found out about pepperoni pizza. Holy smokes! What a revelation, and such beauteous gilding on the pizza lily!

Pizza is so very customizable. There are myriad variations on the pizza topping theme. First there are your basic Mozzarella cheese, meats, and veggies, excellent tomato sauce, a soupçon of garlic and a pinch or oregano. Other toppings may include regional favorites: barbeque, chicken, oysters, crayfish, shrimp, bacon, artichoke hearts and tuna. In Japan the favorite toppings are squid and a mayonnaise mixture of mayo, potato and bacon. A very fancy pizza was once concocted with caviar, lobster and crème fraiche. Hmm. Not up to Sally’s standards I’m afraid.

What do your pizza toppings say about you? Are you quirky, well-traveled, catholic, risk-taking and fearless? Bland, smug, uncurious, timid and hide-bound? Further trolling of the internets reveals that some people add these peculiar toppings (remember now, I am a snobby, unadventuous purist):
• Squash pizza (zucchini, summer squash and zucchini flowers)
• Macaroni and cheese (complete with breadcrumbs)
• Pesto
• BBQ sauce
• Alfredo sauce
• Bacon and egg
• Eggs Florentine
• Spinach and artichoke
• Tex-Mex pizza (pepper Jack cheese, salsa, beans and avocado
• Fig, prosciutto and chili jam
• Sweet potato and Kielbasa
• Lemon and smoke Mozzarella
• Arugula
• Ground lamb with an egg
• Prosciutto, basil and mozzarella
• Ricotta, prosciutto and mint
• Chicken and cranberry relish
• Brussels sprouts, roasted and shaved

A good idea comes from Serious Eats – try par-cooking vegetables to get eliminate some of the moisture and to intensify their flavor. Carmelized onions and peppers go a long way to making pizza a rich tapestry of woven, complimentary flavors, instead of just a slippery bunch of layers.

According to, “eating pizza once a week can reduce the risk of esophageal cancer.” But warns that “34% of the average American adult’s body fat comes from pizza.”

We still make pizza most Friday nights. When our kids were little, pizza wasn’t cause for celebration as it was in my distant youth. Their elementary school held pizza parties at the drop of every possible hat. They had it so often that it was de rigueur and not the least bit ritualistically special. They were growing accustomed to cold, cardboard-tasting (literally) Papa John’s and Domino’s pizzas. Heresy! We wanted them to know what real pizza tasted like.

It pushed our little Kenmore oven to the brink, firing it up to 500°F every Friday night for almost 20 years. We couldn’t achieve the blistering hot 600° and 800° temperatures that special wood burning or coal-fired pizza ovens reach, but we did our suburban best. And it was a great time to be spent together. They learned how to measure, how to wait for dough to rise, how to roll out circles (or amoebas) how to grate cheese, how to feed the dog indigestible pepperoni slices, how to draw pictures in flour (highly marketable art) and how to put up with their parents for a couple of hours every week. We also learned to appreciate getting blisters on the roofs of our mouths from gobbling down fresh, hot out-of-the-oven homemade pizza. No cardboard here! We never got good enough to toss the dough in the air, we still roll it out on the floured counter and we have only achieved the thin, crispy perfection of a crust a dozen or so times. Each week we hope. So many lessons learned from one dish.

This Friday we have some leftover Italian sausage, leftover meatballs and a fresh stick of pepperoni for a mélange of a meat topping. There is some basil growing on the windowsill, and we will toss a handful on top of the pizza when it emerges from the furnace of an oven. Our dough is rising in a bowl in the kitchen right this minute, waiting for pizza magic tonight. How about you?

“But magic is like pizza: even when it’s bad, it’s pretty good.”
― Neil Patrick Harris

And your pizza is nothing without good dough. Our friends at Food52 have many suggestions, but we like this recipe:

And if you want to adapt a pizza theme for every meal possible, visit this site:,454?ref=,

Eating the Right Way at Easton’s Amish Country Farmer’s Market

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Keep your New Year’s resolutions at the Amish Country Farmer’s Market this January. Vendors there have healthy options to help you get and keep fit over the winter.

Salads are a natural fit for weight watching diets. Soup and Salad features a salad bar filled with fresh vegetables and fruits. Raw vegetables are the perfect sources for fiber and vitamins. The Sundried Tomato and Basil dressing is fat-free.

When the weather is cold, nothing warms you up like a bowl of soup. Many of the soups available at Soup and Salad are low fat and gluten-free. Every day there is a vegetarian soup option.Wholesome snacks, including nuts and fruits are among the offerings at Little Bulk Foods in the Market. The shop specializes in home-canned goods and sauces. Fresh ground peanut butter is made right there, so you know exactly what is in it.

Nature’s Nutrients offers a variety whole food vitamins, liquids, herbs, homeopathics, natural beauty products, and a healthy juice/smoothie bar. Consultations are offered to determine your health needs.

Make the Amish Country Farmer’s Market your destination for healthy eating in 2015. The Market is located at 101 Marlboro Rd., Easton. Hours are Thursdays 9-6, Fridays 9-7, and Saturdays 9-3. For more information go to