Nov 23 2011

Here’s hoping your Thanksgiving brings back
many happy memories and creates many more!

Oh! How I love to think of Thanksgivings at my grandmother’s house. What a big deal they were as she was cooking for days ahead. She was a detail planner and carried off big dinners with clockwork precision. The menu was always the same because there was no way to improve upon it. Besides, everyone counted on it from year to year.

Let’s celebrate this woman’s efforts to provide the
perfect Thanksgiving, half a century ago. Where is she?
In the kitchen, of course!

My grandmother was also a great club woman as she loved to go to meetings and socially participate for the betterment of mankind. Most of her meetings were luncheons, so I remember that every meeting she went to, she would come home and recite the menu and describe the table with its tablecloth, centerpiece and place settings. She kept a hostess book, listing every gathering she gave and the menu presented. And, she kept track of what other ladies in Maryland were serving as well. So, I am smiling to myself when I recite my grandmother’s Thanksgiving menu here because the voice in my head, as I type it out to you, sounds just like hers.

Endless tasks accomplished with seemingly endless energy.
Where? In the kitchen, of course!

On a big table that was “U-shaped” and started in the dining room, ran out through the hall way and up into the living room, she served thirty people roast turkey with dressing, mashed potatoes, homemade giblet gravy, candied sweet potatoes, buttered kernel corn, big luscious pans of macaroni and cheese made with New York sharp cheddar, green beans almondine, homemade cranberry sauce, a relish plate of celery, pickles and olives, AND “Brown and Serve” rolls.

Lots of love on this Thanksgiving dinner table. Just
look how much is heaped in with those mashed potatoes.
And where is this loving cook? In the kitchen, of course!

They had to be “Brown and Serve” rolls, because they were the latest and greatest back then in the 1950s when each labor saving innovation was hailed as an additional blessing for which one should give thanks. I know my grandmother blessed the Brown and Serve rolls. She was the oldest girl of a family of nine children and had made many a pan of rolls, so buying them and popping them in the oven to brown before serving was a treat. Her delight and enthusiasm, as she brought the bread baskets to the tables, was infectious.

“What? Oh no! I don’t need any help. I’m almost done.
I’ll just be a few more minutes…”

The routine of it all was so comforting then. Not boring at all, like it might appear to this sound byte world we live in now. We knew who was going to be there, what we would eat, how wonderful the food would taste and, on top of it all, had the childhood luxury of thinking these Thanksgivings would last forever. We believed they would stretch out in an endless twelve month Thanksgiving cycle, connected like a string of cranberries from one year to the next.

The only problem was, of course, it didn’t last forever. Things changed, as they always do. The older people got even older and then finally weren’t with us. Then parts of the family moved away and some families broke up as the parents got divorced. But, I remember when that wonderful part of childhood, thinking everything was forever, was such a comfort in itself.

If I close my eyes, I can still bring it all back. Everyone is seated at the “U-shaped” table, laughing and talking, eating and getting full. They are all there and all I have to do is take my seat to start joining in.

How about you? Can you close your eyes and bring it all back?

I hope so…

Much love to you and please pass the gravy.

 

Giving Thanks

If you have an interest in this great book that has
outstanding reviews and is just mouthwatering to read,
hover your mouse over this link to preview:

Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving Recipes and History, from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie



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Dec 24 2010

Sugar Plums are a delightful, old fashioned treat.
Easy to make and healthy to eat, they do not require baking.

How to Make Sugar Plums
a recipe from Elizabeth LaBau

 

Ingredients for Sugar Plums

  • 3 oz (1/2 cup) chopped pitted dates
  • 3 oz (1/2 cup) chopped toasted walnuts
  • 1 oz (1/4 cup) dried cranberries
  • 1 oz (1/4 cup) chopped prunes
  • 1 oz (1/4 cup) chopped toasted hazelnuts
  • 2 tbsp fruit jam
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

Mix Fruit and Nuts

Start by placing the chopped dates, walnuts, cranberries, prunes, and hazelnuts in the bowl of a food processor. If you don’t have a processor you can do it by hand and just chop everything together until it’s in very small pieces and starts sticking together.

So once all of your fruits and nuts are in the work bowl, pulse the processor several times until everything is in small pieces and is well-mixed.

Add Ingredients and Mix into a Ball

Now add the jam, cinnamon, and cloves. Give it several long pulses until the mixture begins to come together in a ball. Here’s a bit of trivia while you’re mixing: sugarplums get their name from the prunes, or dried plums, in the recipe.

Stop and check it once it starts to come together: when you press it between your fingers it should hold itself in a ball, but you want to retain some texture and be able to see individual pieces of fruit and nuts. Don’t blend it so much that it turns into a sticky paste!

Roll Candy through Sugar

To finish your sugarplums, place the granulated sugar in a bowl. Roll the candy into small balls, and roll them in the granulated sugar. To make it a bit healthier, you could roll them in chopped nuts or coconut instead.

How to Serve and Store Sugar Plums

To keep things neat, serve them in paper candy cups. These sugarplums last for weeks if you keep them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. This mixture also makes an amazing natural energy bar, so you can enjoy the fruity, nutty flavors year-round.

To watch Elizabeth LaBau make her Sugar Plums, click here.



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Oct 13 2010

The making of La Mian is an amazing exercise in the doubling of numbers. By dividing his dough in half twelve times, Chef Kin Jing Mark makes 4096 noodles that are very fine in the video below. The noodles are, as he says, as fine as a human hair.

La Mian is a type of handmade or hand-pulled Chinese noodle. Through a process of stretching and twisting wheat flour, noodle makers can hand pull hundreds, even thousands of beautiful long thin noodles for a variety of dishes. The process is simple enough, but when you see a master noodle maker perform, one truly appreciates the art and beauty of cooking.

Chef Kin Jing Mark shares his wit and expertise.

Seems impossible, doesn’t it? Dividing the dough in half twelve times produces 4,096 noodles? But, grab a calculator and try it or relax and read this:

Chef Mark makes one long noodle and divides it in half, so that’s…

 1)   1 x 2 =2

 2)   2 x 2 = 4

 3)   2 x 4 = 8

 4)   2 x 8 = 16

 5)   2 x 16 = 32

 6)   2 x 32 = 64

 7)   2 x 64 = 128

 8)   2 x 128 = 256

 9)   2 x 256 = 512

10)   2 x 512 = 1024

11)   2 x 1024 = 2048

12)   2 x 2048 = 4096

Ta-Da!



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Oct 11 2010

With the growing demand for organic food, most anything
found as conventional food also can be found as organic.

In 2008, when we were introduced to the concept of drinking real milk, we also learned it is now possible to eat completely organically. Our friends already living that lifestyle set a good example and by following their lead, we learn to spiral upward as well.

At first, because we knew organic foods costs more than their conventional counterparts, we thought it would break our budget.  We soon realized that because we were receiving better, more complete nutrients, we were satisfied more quickly and did not eat as much. In fact, it was amazing the savings once we started eating wholly organic. And, we found that many of our health complaints lessened. We began to notice we did not catch colds or get sick like we used to. So, that was a definite savings in time and money as well.

The big financial savings came when we decided not to eat at restaurants anymore. The money saved was incredible. We ate better and had more time than we thought possible to cook and prep meals once we weren’t tied down to a restaurant wait for seating and service. Now, we are really repulsed by the thought of eating out. We do “go along for the ride” with friends and business associates, but we eat before we go and have Perrier sparkling water at the table.

I have many thoughts to share about the health benefits of not only eating organically, but also, NOT eating refined foods and foods with chemical additives. There is much information to learn, maybe, for you to make the switch, but if you just start as we did, a little at a time, you’ll be ready to opt for good health and never look back.

Whole Foods Market offers a quick introduction to the basics of organic farming in this video from their web site. Learn some of the principles of organic agriculture, as well as hear from several farmers who choose to farm organically.

Whole Foods Market, IP, L.P. is our nation’s first organic grocer.

Are you already eating with us as organic consumers? If so, can you share how it has helped you redefine your health priorities? If not, have you thought of going organic?



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Sep 28 2010

Have you planned your Wampanoag Garden yet?

A Wampanoag Garden is one of the clever Native American garden systems used to grow the “three sisters” of corn, squash and beans like the Native Americans have been doing for thousands of years. Each different Native American culture has their own style of doing things and two years ago, in the fall of 2008, I found a fantastic website outlining the history and methods of three sister Native American gardens from several different tribes.

Once you catch on to the beauty of these companion planting practices, you’ll want to keep this web site handy for reference. I want to share with you that the web site’s section on Squanto’s Secret Garden is my favorite pdf of all time. You will have to sign up to get the free e-book, but I did two years ago and have never regretted it.  The Squanto’s Secret Garden e-book is wonderfully informative and well worth the time investment.

Sampling of “The Wampanoag Garden” from Squanto’s Secret Garden pdf:

“This is the design that is most traditionally associated with Squanto and the Pilgrims. Many of the Native American tribes of the Northeast used this garden design. This garden is traditionally planted in a round shape, however, feel free to modify it if it does not suit your gardening area. Keep in mind that it would be possible to create a round shape within a rectangular one, and use the corner portions for gardening other plants that do not suit your companion planting.

First, you will need to form the mounds for the beans and corn. Each mound is about four inches high, with a wide base about 18 inches in diameter. Each of the mounds should be four feet away from the other mounds, measuring from the center of each mound. You can conserve moisture by forming a crater like depression on the top of each mound. Plant four corn seeds six inches apart from each other, three inches into the mound.

At the same time you plant the corn, you can also plant the sunflowers. The sunflowers should be positioned at the North end of the garden so that they do not block sunlight. The sunflower mounds should be placed about three feet apart. Three seeds in separate holes can be planted at the top of each mound. Squash should be planted in the house in pots or seed trays to allow it to develop into seedlings ready for planting.”

A Mantis Tiller makes breaking new ground easy.

In the spring of 2010, we began building up the soil our Wampanoag Garden. When you measure out the garden outlined in the Squanto’s Secret Garden pdf, the result is a round garden that’s 18 feet in diameter. But, we decided, with the space we have, 18 feet is too big, so we downsized to one that’s 12 feet in diameter. We begrudgingly sacrificed the spacing for a few plants to have ease of movement in and around the garden.

We are planning on planting our three sister garden in the spring of 2011, so this year we planted a cover crop of clover, added earthworms and nematodes and sat back and did nothing else all summer. We grew the clover crop, planning on tilling it back in to the soil to increase nitrogen in the soil as most soil needs more nitrogen to support nutrient vegetable growth. Building up nitrogen is the reason Native Americans buried a fish in with seeds and corn kernels when they planted.

Another big educational aspect of the Squanto’s Secret Garden web site is that most soils are depleted. Most everyone therefore, will need to build up their soil before having successfully nutritious foods produced from it. Providing the minerals and nutrients necessary for enhanced growth without chemical fertilizers allows dependably healthy plants that are able to fight off diseases and nasty invaders. And the produce grown from such plants has added nutritional value in every bite. Nutrient dense foods are what we all need to live.  If the soil doesn’t have what plants need to thrive, then the vegetables produced from the compromised plants will not have what people need to thrive.

Building up the soil insures your work will be rewarded.

Currently, we are getting ready to till the garden again so that the clover cover will be ground up into the soil. We will also ground the soil very fine and then let it sit over winter so it forms a healthy network of soil organisms, and with just a bit of work in the spring, the ground will be ready for planting. We are also adding Protogrow soil nutrients to the soil as we till with the Mantis to give our seedlings a head start next spring. Here is the website for Protogrow, where you can learn more about soil depletion, trace elements and how to replicate the techniques that Squanto used to enrich the soil and save the Pilgrims. There is also a Protogrow blog that’s fun and informative on this link.

Gardening vegetables with natural nutrients makes our vegetables as organic as we can get them.  We are lucky because the previous owner of this property loved birds and would not use chemical fertilizers on the lawn or gardens because he felt it harmed the birds.

If you are not convinced that organically grown vegetables are a necessity to a fully functional body, take time to read this article. It outlines a study comparing the nutritional value of organically grown foods to those produced by traditional farming. It also outlines how the nutritional content of produce has decreased over the years, so much so, that the FDA vitamin requirements most of us are using are outdated. In some cases, twice as many units of vegetables are needed to be consumed to equal the vitamin content of vegetables grown when the FDA values were calculated. And, remember, when they say “traditional farming,” they mean modern day farming familiar to most readers of the article. What they are not acknowledging is that the “old time” farming before the “traditional farming” used many of the same techniques we call organic today.  That was all people had and that was what was successfully used for thousands of years.

If you would like an introduction to Protogrow, there are many videos on YouTube that will help. Here is one by Jerry Greenfield. To watch, click play:

We will be sharing our Wampanoag Garden progress with you here at Sunbonnet Smart to share our excitement about companion planting and, especially, growing the “three sisters” of corn, beans and squash together. In the next couple of days, we will be sharing some history of the Wampanoag people and Plymouth, Massachusetts, just in time for making Thanksgiving plans.



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