Food Friday: Thanksgiving Countdown!


You have a lot to do in the next week – so we are trying keeping things simple. Use this streamlined checklist of prep work to ensure you have a great (and uneventful) Thanksgiving dinner. (We are not cooking our Thanksgiving this year, so I am going to coast. I will volunteer to hold the baby. Or to wash dishes.)

Have you ordered a turkey? If you get a frozen turkey, don’t forget to allow for time for it to thaw! It can take 4 or 5 days for a turkey to defrost in your refrigerator. Amazing! Not thawing the turkey ahead of time would be almost as bad as cooking the turkey with the giblets still in the bag, still inside the bird! I have a friend who really did that. It was her first Thanksgiving cooking on her own, but we never let her forget it. Do not replicate her experience, please! Do not become the stuff of legend.


Make your cranberry relish and stash it in the fridge. The general wisdom is that homemade tastes best, and it is even better for having been prepared a couple of days in advance: it macerates. That is, of course, unless yours is a family that values the grooves left in the cranberry jelly from the Ocean Spray tin can.


Clean out spaces in the fridge and the freezer for the food that is coming in for prep, and for the inevitable leftovers. It is a good time to sort through those sell by dates and recoil with horror! Full disclosure: I just looked in our fridge and threw out two yogurts that expired on September 28 and a sour cream from October 7.

What are you using for a centerpiece? Flowers? Pumpkins? The turkey? Do you have someone to craft beauteous place cards? Many delightful quiet hours can be whiled away with some three by five cards, felt, Elmer’s glue and pinking shears. And do you have enough chairs? Will you need to improvise a children’s table?

Check your linens. One of the best hints I ever garnered from Martha Stewart (or one of her many minions) is to take the tablecloth out of the washing machine and let it air dry for just a little while before putting it, damp, on the table. Now enlist one of your reluctant underlings to help you stretch the wrinkles out, and then let gravity do its work. Wrinkle free and kind for the environment! This week I read an ode to Downey Wrinkle Releaser Plus on Slate. I am going to give it a whirl the next time I get all of the laundry off the dining room table and actually sit down to a meal.
You’ll still have to iron the napkins, though.

Are you starting stuffing from scratch or are you using store bought Pepperidge Farm stuffing? If you are doing scratch, don’t forget to cut up some bread (dare I suggest Pepperidge Farm Original White bread?) a day or two before Thursday, so it has time to get good and stale.


Check your platters, dinner plates, wine glasses, water glasses, serving pieces and silver. Assign silver polishing duties to the young and the restless. Set the table on Wednesday night. And mark it off your To Do List.

Bake pies. Or cakes. Or fancy trifle or ambrosial artisan pear tarts.

If you are brining your turkey, get cracking. It needs to be in the brine overnight.

Make the mashed potatoes. It is much better to know all the peeling and smashing is done. Stash them in the newly spacious and clean fridge, but don’t forget to reheat them tomorrow! I had a dream about mashed potatoes the other night. Honest. I woke up chattering that I needed half a potato per person. Luckily I did not wake up the dog.


Be sure to chill plenty of white wine. Or apple cider for the young ‘uns.

Prepare the stuffing. We like sausage, onion and celery added to the bread, doused liberally with chicken broth, and sprinkled with celery seed and black pepper.

Stuff the bird.

Roast the turkey. We assign the basting duties, which occur every half hour, to the Tall One. He is our favorite Master Baster.

Side dishes: beans, squash, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, scalloped potatoes, Brussels sprouts, kale, salad, corn, creamed spinach, pearl onions, cranberry jelly (or relish), rutabagas, rolls. Don’t forget the rolls!

Relish tray: gherkins, carrots, celery, olives, radishes. You have the dish, so why not revisit the 1950s?

Make gravy.

Light the candles.

Get your young IT department to make a playlist of songs for your iPhone and your Jambox that everyone will enjoy – this is a multigenerational event, so play fair. Or find a Pandora station that has an eclectic mix of old and new – just as long as no one starts playing Christmas carols yet!

If you are serving coffee after the meal get your coffee pot ready to go before you sit down. You might get all comfy and chatty after all the delish food and wine and pie piled with soporific whipped cream, and you wouldn’t want to forget to brew coffee.

And don’t forget that the New York Times says it is fine and dandy to cut corners. So try to enjoy yourself. Put down the wooden spoon and join your guests. Enjoy the candle light, the company and the moment.

Gobble, gobble.

Happy Thanksgiving.

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
– John Fitzgerald Kennedy

For your vegetarians:

SpyCam Moment: Helping Feed the Neediest in Talbot County


President George Bush (41) was periodically mocked during his term in office for suggesting that government’s limited capacity for caring for the neediest in our society could be supplemented with “a thousand points of light’ of community volunteerism throughout the country. The Spy will leave it to history if Bush’s vision was ever realized, but if anyone is looking for 300 of those lights locally, we can only suggest dropping by the St. Vincent de Paul center on Canvasback Drive in Easton.

In our Spycam Moment, Alex Handy, the volunteer president of St. Vincent since 2008, highlights how the organization’s mission has grown since he took over, but also how it has mushroomed from just thirty volunteers to three hundred during that short period of time, offering 200 bags of free groceries each week.

This video is approximately three minutes in length

Those interested in learning more about St. Vincent de Paul can go to or at:

St. Vincent de Paul
29533 Canvasback Drive
Easton, MD 21601

The Importance of Julia Child’s Kitchen and Mirrors with St. Michaels Architect Pamela Heyne

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St. Michaels architect Pamela Heyne believes her first link to Talbot County was through her friend David Morton, son of Eastern Shore hero Rogers Morton, when they were both at Yale School of Architecture together in the late 1960s. She had fond memories of the area, but it never occurred to her that she and her husband would one day be living on Mount Misery Road. That was until they decided to adopt two girls when they were seven and nine years old.

It has now been over ten years since they made the decision to trade in the urban life of Georgetown for a rural one for the girls teen years. But that has not stopped Pam as both an architect and author.

Even with an extraordinary client list, with the likes of the late Ben Bradlee, Oberlin College, and quite a few closer to home, it is her work in relation to kitchen design and the use of mirrors in residential houses that has lead her to collaborations with Julia Child and making presentations to executives of Saint Gobain, the glass & mirror company founded by Louis XIV.

In her Spy interview, Pam talks about she learned from Julia Child, her bias in kitchen design, not only in terms of design and function, but its impact of family life and what role it plays now in the American home.

This video is approximately five minutes in length

Food Friday: Thanksgiving Smackdown; Crescent Rolls or Parker House?


Which do you prefer, crescent rolls or Parker House rolls? Or are you a cornbread kind of family? It is fascinating how holiday rituals vary from family to family. Do you fancy white meat or dark? Do you cook stuffing inside the turkey, or are you like me and err on caution’s side, and also prepare a sanitary, dry-as-sawdust pan of stuffing that goes in the oven for an hour after the cooked bird has emerged? Do you wait, ghoulishly, for the signs of salmonella to appear after everyone has gorged themselves on bowls of in-the-bird stuffing? I always picture elderly relatives gasping for breath and falling to the floor in agonizing, writhing, intestinal pain. I might have to research the symptoms a little more assiduously.

So far, no one has succumbed to food poisoning, or salmonella, at one of our Thanksgivings. There have been the occasional awkward and/or tipsy comments, but if the candlelight is dim enough you can roll you eyes, have another piece of pie and ignore the gaff until the guests have gone home. And then you can relive the moments that become family legend while washing up the good china. We mostly manage to side-step political commentary, and keep up a steady patter of latest genius baby stories, or harken back to the good old days when Dad was six, and he smacked Uncle Bob on the head with a toy gun, and discovered that it takes a lot of Hollywood magic to knock someone out cold…

Do you cook a turkey for Thanksgiving? Or did you spring from the loins of an iconoclast family that cooks ham, or goose, or Spaghetti Carbonara? Do you sneer at green beans and embrace roasted Brussels sprouts? Russets or sweet potatoes for you? Do you serve Champagne or a slighter cooler than room temperature Beaujolais Nouveau? Do you baste or do you brine? Do you have Thanksgiving dinner at noon? Have you ever had to cater to a vegetarian at this carnivore delight of a meal? Sit-down or buffet? Football or X-Files marathon? Do you plan weeks ahead, or do you buy the ingredients on Wednesday and hope for the best? And do you cook all day, and finally sit down at six, exhausted?

According to Wednesday’s New York Times we should have gotten cracking weeks ago. We should have assessed our platter collection, counted heads, calculated pounds of turkey according to the number of guests, and planned the menu and started collecting meat drippings from which to make the gravy. But they also endorse the notion that you should not be a martyr to the Thanksgiving process; “cut corners” says the venerable New York Times. So if you pick up some Pepperidge Farm dinner rolls or pop open a couple of cans of Pillsbury crescent rolls, no one will be the wiser.

Here is a handy dandy checklist for your Thanksgiving countdown:

Crescent Rolls|/274695/thanksgiving-bread-and-roll-recipes/@center/276949/everything-thanksgiving|333830

Parker House Rolls

Pull-Apart Butter Rolls



“My mom makes something called green pie, which I thought was a delicacy that many people only had at Thanksgiving, but it turns out it was just Jell-O with whipped cream on it. And it’s delicious.”
Bobby Moynihan

Note: Since we are traveling, we will be bringing a tray of pre-fab Pepperidge Farm Parker House rolls with us. But on a very nice, new platter, which will be a hostess gift. And a flock of Beaujolais Nouveau. ‘Tis the season!

Pet Pantries “Diamonds in the Ruff” November 20

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Pet Pantries will hold its 2nd annual “Diamonds in the Ruff” event on Thursday, November 20th from 5 PM to 8 PM at Shearer the Jeweler, 22 North Washington Street in Easton. The event will raise funds to continue the work that Pet Pantries does to keep the public pet food pantries filled at the Humane Organizations in Caroline, Dorchester, and Talbot County.

“We are grateful to Shearer the Jeweler for hosting this event and for donating the beautiful diamond earrings that will be the grand prize in the drawings for this event,” said Pet Pantries President Barbara Mulready. Additional raffle prizes include a Pamper Yourself package which includes a couples massage at Five Gables Inn and Spa, Dinner for two at the Inn at Perry Cabin and an overnight stay in a deluxe waterfront room at Harbortown Golf and Resort.

Our Pamper your Pet package includes six months of grooming donated by Eileen’s Pampered Pets, a one night stay at Maryland Shore Pet Resort and an oil painting of your pet donated by Martha Holthausen.

Everyone who makes a contribution of $25 or more to Pet Pantries for this event may choose to be entered into a drawing for one of the above prizes. Online donations may be made by visiting You do not need to be present to win.

Please join us for champagne, donated by Hair 0’ The Dog, hor dourves donated by Paul and Debbie Shiley, dessert donated by Pam Zak and guitar background music donated by Kenny Haddaway. Thank you Economy Printing for your continued help and support.

Because of your generosity Pet Pantries has distributed more than 20,000 pounds of food over the past three years and has helped approximately 1500 pets a year stay with their owners. That is a staggering figure and it’s all because you!

The money raised at “Diamonds in the Ruff” will make a significant contribution in our efforts to to keep up with the constant need for pet food.

Food Friday: Thanksgiving Mini Pies

FF_Mini Pies

Don’t you even think about relaxing this weekend! What are your Thanksgiving plans? Have you checked the china? Have you counted the silver? Do you have enough napkins? Where are the platters? Have you thought about ordering your turkey? You have only got three weeks to get your ducks and turkeys in a row, so get cracking!

For only the second time in twenty years we are not having Thanksgiving at home. What a peculiar feeling! I’ll still order a turkey (or a turkey breast) so we have the requisite leftovers for sandwiches, but for once I will not be coordinating dishes, arranging flowers and standing in the kitchen directing potato peeling or turkey basting.

This year we are traveling to our daughter’s house for the first away-game Thanksgiving for all of us. There is a new baby to coo over, so we want to make every thing easy peasy. This will not be a Martha event, although we are hoping to have some nice touches. There will be the aroma of the roasting turkey, the glow of candles (and football on the television) and affectionate warmth as we gather around the table and give thanks, as we share a meal and a flock of Prosecco.

Some families have reliable traditions like NPR’s Susan Stamberg with her grandmother’s Thanksgiving relish: Truman Capote baked fruitcakes with his aunts. We do not have any public broadcasting or American literary pretensions here. In this house, invariably, with almost clockwork precision, I forget to cook the green beans. Luckily, over the years, we have found that we like our beans lightly steamed; heated just enough that they appear bright green and lustrous. Forgetting them annually is not a huge glitch in the Thanksgiving schedule. Though neither is it a rollicking yearly joke. What if we were one of those families whose holiday depends on a Campbell’s mushroom soup green bean casserole? Crickey! I would probably also forget the canned crunchy onion rings! These are among the blessing we count.

I will be contributing is a dessert. Which is always fun and show-off-y. I am baking a variety of wee, small, diminutive pies. We have always have chocolate-y desserts at Thanksgiving. Or rather, when we hosted Thanksgiving, we erred on the side of chocolate. Now with new family members, we have to consider that pumpkin and apple pies might be in order, too.

I will make the usual chocolate pudding pie, topped with clouds of homemade whipped cream, only in miniature. Also some itsy bitsy pumpkin, cherry and apple pies. This way everyone can sample a variety, no one needs fine china or sterling because they will be practically bite-sized, and I’ll still get a chance to fuss with minutia when assembling them.

As always, I advocate buying pre-made pie crust, rolling it out and cutting out small circles of dough to fit into cupcake pans. A nice scalloped edge cookie cutter will give you the illusion of piecrust fluting, or you can press the edges of the piecrust down with a fork to create a pattern. You can make tiny latticework for the doll-sized cherry and apple pies, but be sure to chill the dough before you start weaving your magic.

Also remember– don’t try to bake all the pies at the same time. The fruit fillings cook faster than the pumpkin, and you will need to do the chocolate pudding pie separately anyway, because the shell needs to be baked before it is filled. And if you attempt an exotic lemon meringue pie there is the delicate browning of the meringue. Maybe you should think about Key Lime pie instead. Traditionally it calls for a whipped cream topping, too. Heavens!

A nice variety of petite pies, borne into a warm house on Thanksgiving, will be festive. And maybe there won’t be any leftovers to bring home, back over the river.

After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”
― Oscar Wilde

SpyCam Moment: Tea is Fitting in like a T at the General Store at Royal Oak

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If, as they say, “tea is the new coffee,” the T at the General Store in Royal Oak is leading the charge. And nothing excites our Spy curiosity more than new restaurants that honor local agriculture while at the same time show genuine creativity with food and spirits. After a short reconnaissance trip to Royal Oak after their brunch service, we caught up with the T owners for a quick overview of the concept.

This video is about one minute in length

T at the General Store
25942 Royal Oak Rd
Royal Oak
(410) 745-8402

Bistro St. Michaels Wins Oyster Stew Competition

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CBMM_OysterStewWinner2014Bistro St. Michaels Executive Chef David Hayes, center, stands behind his first place oyster stew at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum’s October 25 competition at OysterFest. Standing with Hayes are CBMM volunteers Bridget and Danny Moss. Bistro St. Michaels will receive an award plaque from CBMM in honor of the distinction and the opportunity to serve the winning stew at next year’s OysterFest.

The oyster stew competition was sponsored by the Hambleton Inn Bed & Breakfast of St. Michaels.

Six restaurants competed, with 500 festival-goers taking part in blind taste tests before voting by ballot for their favorite stew. Bistro St. Michaels was served as stew ‘A’ in the tastings, with OysterFest participants voting Theo’s Steaks, Sides & Spirits of St. Michaels (stew ‘C’) as the second place winner, and third place going to Roy’s Kwik Korner of Glen Burnie, (stew ‘B’). Other participants included the High Spot Gastropub of Cambridge (stew ‘D’), The Inn at Perry Cabin by Belmond’s Stars of St. Michaels (stew “E’) and Victory Garden Café of Easton (stew ‘F’). The competition was sponsored by the Hambleton Inn Bed & Breakfast of St. Michaels.

CBMM’s next OysterFest is scheduled for October 31, 2015 in St. Michaels, Md. For more information, visit

Food Friday: Apple and Sultana Crumble for Downrigging Weekend


This weekend is Downrigging Weekend in Chestertown, a busy time for everyone. And we have gone to the Way Back Machine for this week’s recipe because it will be fast and easy to prepare so we won’t miss out on any of the festivities. Plus it will use local, seasonal fruit (which helps to assuage our oh, so many guilts) and it will celebrate the Sultana. And look, the sultanas are almost the same color as the schooner! Who would have guessed?

We ran downtown to the Farmers’ Market last week to procure the ingredients for the crumble, and are laying in a good supply of craft beers and Prosecco, because Saturday night is Prosecco Night whether there are tall ships in the harbor or not!

Here is a link to all that is happening this weekend on Downrigging Weekend:

There is so much going on! Tall Ships, Halloween, Marc Castelli has an opening at the Massoni Gallery and there is music and the RiverArts studio tour and the Halloween Parade! Get cooking now so you can join in all the fun!
The National Weather Service warns that it will be cool and breezy, with a 40% chance of rain. Don your sou’wester, toss on a sweater, and don’t forget your Trick or Treat bags!

Apple and Sultana Crumble

6 cups peeled and cored apples, chopped
½ cup Sultanas
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons lemon juice

¾ cup flour
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ pound chilled butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 350° F. In a large mixing bowl, add the apple pieces and then scatter the sultanas like rosebuds. Mix the cinnamon and the sugar together, and sprinkle over the apples. Now sprinkle the lemon juice over everything. Toss briskly. Put the apple mixture into a deep pie pan, spreading it evenly.

Combine the dry topping ingredients in another bowl, adding the butter, and mixing it coarsely with a spoon or an electric mixer. Now spread the crumbling crumble mixture over the apple filling.

Bake for about 40 minutes, until the topping is golden brown. Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream, or homemade Devon cream if you’ve a mind to. Personally, I can’t wait.

“Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness.”
-Jane Austen

Revenge on the Chestnut by Bobbie Brittingham


The word revenge might be a little too strong for this situation, but it really felt good to say it. There are several different kind of chestnuts. The color of a horse for one. I had a beautiful big 17 hand horse named Shannon when I was a young woman many years ago, but I still can see how bright his coat shinned after giving him a bath as he stood in the sun. He had a lovely bright chestnut color. I loved it. Horses also have a small hard scaly growth on their legs called a chestnut. There is the chestnut wood used in fine furniture, and it has beautiful rich grain to it. A woman with chestnut color hair as Maureen O’Hara had, to be envied by many. THEN there is the chestnut tree. A tree that produces sought after edible nuts. More about them later. I want to inform you about the beauty of this tree. It is rather a medium to fast growing deciduous tree that can eventually reach 75 to 100 feet. In the early 20th century, a fungal blight carried by a hitch hiker almost wiped out the American Chestnut. They are breeding them now in hopes that they can create a tree that will be resistant to this deadly blight. Large oval serrated leaves that cover wide sweeping arching branches. The bark has an interesting rough grey-brown bark. The spring brings forth a beautiful white cascading candle-like blossom, and it has a slight sweet fragrance. They were so prominent on the Appalachian Mountain tops that when they were in bloom it was said to look like snow on the tops of the mountains. These blossoms drop and will create drifts that can clog the gutters.

Close up ChestnutThe architectural branches add great interest to the winter landscape too. They are a very lovely tree with many attributes, but they do have a major major (that is a double major) drawback. Word of caution, my language and tone might change as I reveal the very despicable side of this tree. In the fall these stately trees drop a round, hard, thorny, sharply, bristly, prickly, spiky, covered ball. They are treacherous to step on and it will go thru a flip – flop. Yes, I really do know about this from firsthand experience. The tree should never, ever, be planted near any path, door or opening within 100 yards of where inhabitants or cohabitants are living. Mine is !!!!! Located on the drive side of the house, right where anyone who gets out of a car steps on them, and I walk almost daily. This is my real reason for the extreme disdain I have for this particular chestnut tree.

But the chestnut does have a little secret inside these tennis size monstrous balls. There is a sweet delicious buttery nut. This is the first year I took the challenge, or rather an attempt at doing something with them. After all, I had to find a way to wage revenge on the tree. I really didn’t want to cut it down since I love my trees and have planted over 87 trees in three years on a few acres. This seemed like a reasonable excuse to salvage some decent kind of reward from the continuous raking and cleaning up these nasty —- spiny, prickly things that the devil grew. The little nut inside will luckily loosen from the surrounding barricade and to descend with a thud to the ground. The only thing is that between the squirrels and me was an hourly dash to grab Chestnut treewhat we could before the other did. I had collected a nice bag of these exquisite chestnuts and decided this would be my revenge. These are the nuts that romantic, holiday songs have been written, and people pay dearly for from a street vendor. They are of culinary fame from soup to, well, nuts is one word, but I will say just deserts. So I looked up on Goggle how to roast these prized gems. I bought a special roasting pan and a special tool for cutting the ends in a cross pattern. I invested all of only $68.00 at Amazon. This proves they really do have everything.

I invited a friend over to enter into this process with me. I was making sure that if I were poisoned from this experiment, someone could tell my children how brave I was. I followed the directions from Miss Martha (you know THE one) and opened a bottle of white wine to help with digestion. The special frying pan was scattered with about fifteen prepared nuts. I turned the gas on to medium and stood back in admiration of this fulfilling moment. Soon the cross started to peel away from the inside treasure. All was waiting for REVENGE. Some butter was melted, and some salt was ground and then the moment of complete ecstatic REVENGE !!!! YES– YES– YES. Almost as good as When Harry Met Sally.

Now you can make up your own mind about whether you want a Chestnut tree . If I had my choice, I would never plant one close to the house. I would certainly plant one just far enough out of the way so that it does not cause undo pain, but still close enough that I can race the squirrels.