Sunday, August 7, 2011

In the Small Things

When I was little, I would wake to the aromas of my parents' breakfasts.  The grown-up smells of coffee and bacon and biscuits and eventually my dad's post-breakfast Lucky Strike(which, to my great gratitude, he gave up in the mid-Sixties) wafted their ways into my bedroom well before sunup most of the year; in the winters, when the farm didn't require that Daddy be at it quite so early, he and Mother would rise a bit later and frequently I'd find my way to the kitchen table to be with them.

Daddy loved sorghum molasses.  So did I.  By my recollection, we kept a jar of molasses on the kitchen table for every breakfast and I think it must have just been kind of moved around, but not typically removed, at other meals.  It was a presence on the table, like the salt and pepper shakers.  Daddy would pour out a puddle of molasses into his plate, slice a couple of pats of butter onto it, mash it all together with a knife and dredge his biscuits through it.  It was delicious.  I liked my butter completely incorporated into my molasses, making it a creamy pool into which I'd sop my biscuits (which my grandmother made from scratch every morning, cutting them out with an empty tin orange juice can).  Oh, it was so good!

In the fall of 2000, I came home from Dallas for a few days to see the folks.  My father, by now in his mid-eighties but always one for a road trip, thought it would be a good idea to take a little excursion over into Tennessee.  My father grew up in west Tennessee, and he enjoyed going back there and seemed to know every inch of that part of the state.  He wanted to visit a Mennonite sorghum mill outside of the town of Finger, somewhere around Jackson and a couple of hours' drive from home.  He'd been there before, and he swore they made the best molasses ever, and we could visit the actual operation and watch them making it (Daddy was also always keen to see how things were made) because it was the right time of year.  Anyway, it was something to do, so my mom and my dad and my little niece and I all loaded up and off we went to go find molasses.  On orders I drove, Daddy rode shotgun and navigated, and Mother and Chelsey settled into the back seat.

It was cool and overcast and sort of rainy.  We crossed the Mississippi River at Caruthersville and turned southeast beyond Dyersburg.  We went through Jackson and past Henderson and. . . we got lost.  And my dad typically didn't get lost.  He hadn't been there in a few years and I'm not sure, but maybe he'd only been there once before, and maybe he hadn't been the one to drive previously (although he didn't say either of those things), yet Daddy knew that we needed to turn left and head east somewhere after Henderson.  However, there weren't any roads leading east other than little unmarked gravel lanes into country woods.  Daddy began to get tetchy and grumpy.  It surely didn't help that Mother and my niece kept singing "Who Let the Dogs Out?", but he didn't say anything.  (Somehow, I didn't either.)  I drove and drove and drove; I turned around and drove back the other way, then turned around again.  Eventually, with the thinking that surely it would somehow lead us either to Finger or to a road that would get us there, he had me turn onto one of those little lanes, which got narrower and more and more country-woodsy.  I think we came upon some hunters and asked them about "the sorghum mill"; they couldn't give us any direction.  Finally we came out onto a blacktop road and made our way into Finger, Tennessee.  By then it was raining in earnest.  The town was just a dot of a place, but it did have a grocery store, and I have some vague recollection of seeing a bank.  There was a little boy -- about nine years old, perhaps -- jogging down the street with a grocery bag.  My father rolled down his car window and called to him, asking him where the sorghum mill was.  The kid didn't know.  Daddy, frustrated and irascible, said something to the effect of "Well, you sure don't know much, do you?" and rolled up the window and had me drive off, to my chagrin.

We continued out of town, looking for signs for the sorghum mill through the rain-coated windshield.  It was pouring.  We came upon a church, where some men were getting into cars, but they drove away before we were able to make inquiry of them.  We turned around in the church parking lot and retraced our route.  The rain had slacked and on our way back into Finger we saw a man working in a shed, so we stopped there and asked him if he knew of a sorghum mill in the area.  Finally:  someone who knew something!  We were to go on toward Finger and look for a sign for the place on the right, not very far from where we were.  And presently we arrived at our intended destination -- the Stoll family farmhouse, a long shed where Stoll's sorghum was cooking down in long staggered vats that made me think of the locks in the Panama Canal, and scores of what I remember as whitewashed gourd birdhouses (but maybe they were traditional purple martin houses).  We watched the cooking process for some time while my dad chatted with the men working it.  I recall it as very much a family operation, and theirs seemed to be a big family.  Inside their home, they sold the molasses by the jar and in cases from a room right off the kitchen.  End of story:  We bought cases of the stuff, my father's good spirits were restored -- he knew all along what he was looking for and pretty much where it was, he was just having a hard time finding it again -- and I took at least one case back to Dallas with me to share this hard-gained bounty, very selectively, with special friends.

Well, not quite the end of the story.  Daddy was right -- Stoll's was the best molasses ever.  I had been stingy with it but after a while, it was all gone.  I knew it was a very local product and that I wasn't going to be able to find it in Texas.  I saved a label off a jar and several months later called the number printed thereon to order more but they were out of stock until the next harvest.  So I rather thought that our ramble into mid-western Tennessee to acquire this ambrosia was a one-time experience -- an experience deeply embedded in my heart and my mind -- and that I was unlikely to get any more Stoll's sorghum molasses.  Memorable as it was, I had no intention of repeating that trip and wasn't going to ask anyone else to do so.

But God is in the small things as well as the large.  Five years later, my beloved Daddy gone now, I moved back to the Missouri Bootheel to live with my mom.  Our only grocery in town is a Piggly Wiggly.  Our Piggly Wiggly STOCKS Stoll's sorghum molasses.  And I bring it to the Kennett Community Farmers Market by way of my spiced molasses cookies.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Too good

I don't know, but I've been told:  the streets of heaven are paved with pineapple, pecans, brown sugar and butter.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

I call this "a study in blue"

One of my favorite cookbooks is from the Black Dog Tavern on Martha's Vineyard.  In this landlocked heat, oh! wouldn't it be loverly this morning to sit on a cool harborside porch drinking hot coffee and eating some of their Blueberry Butter Cake?  And we're not even quite at the "dog days of summer" yet.  I've been so fortunate to find wonderful blueberries this year I just had to make up a couple of these.

I've got a dozen banana-blueberry muffins made up for the Market today, too.

Oh, yeah.  There's also the died-and-gone-to-heaven pineapple upside-down cake.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

I know God loves me because. . .

. . . He made corn and peaches.

Other non-casualties

Rosemary basil mini-baguettes and soda bread rolls (the second, more successful batch)

I particularly love these mini-baguettes.  They're what I'd call an appetizer bread, best eaten with cheese and fruit or dipped in a good olive oil.  In fact, my niece calls them "dipping bread".

Friday, July 15, 2011

Fraught with adversity

Some weeks.  I mean, really.

I think I'm a pretty good baker.  I don't screw up a lot.  But jeepers, this week!

I guess it started with the bohemian bread I really wanted to bake.  It called for rye flour.  How hard can that be, to find rye flour?  Isn't it everywhere?  No.  Four towns and eight  (yes, eight) stores later, I bought a 2 pound bag (you know how much 2 pounds is?  about 6 cups in volume -- that's nothing) at the only health food store in what I believe is about a fifty-mile radius.  FYI, folks:  rye flour isn't a health food.  And also FYI, folks:  it wasn't particularly cheap.

So I made up a batch of bohemian bread.  It was in fact quite good, but not what I wanted:  I wanted more rye bread flavor.  I'd only topped it with the caraway seeds, not worked them into the dough.  So I made a second batch with wonderful caraway seeds all loaded up within -- one recipe makes two loaves.  This time the breads rose nicely prior to baking, then fell in their centers (too much moisture in the dough).  Well, I'm not going to sell that!  But then I was out of rye flour and out of time to make another run to the health food store.

This morning I made soda bread rolls.  Too big, too dense, but seriously tasty -- butter 'em up and oh, Lordy!  I can't even imagine them with jam.  We'll eat them here.  Will try again tonight and make smaller rolls.

I forgot and left my first batch of savory herbed loaves in the oven while I took my mother to the hairdresser.  Can you say "door stop"?  Actually they're not heavy; just hard (like "the victim was struck with a blunt object" hard).  I'm going to take a shot at making them into croutons, which if successful will be absolutely delicious.

Let's not talk about the soup that fell out of the refrigerator.

Just so you know I'm not a complete flubber-di-blub (is that a term?  Like flibbertigibbet?) -- but perhaps a will-o'-th'-wisp, a clown (yeeaahh, nootttt. . . .) -- here are some of the non-casualties:

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Culprit! or Why I Was Late or How the Animals Benefitted


This past Saturday morning I thought I really had my act together as I headed for the FM.  I'd done all the necessary tasks around the house (Mom duty, dog duty, cat duty) that have to be accomplished before I set out and despite the fact that some still-unknown-to-me force majeure knocked out our electricity for about two hours on Friday evening, bringing my KitchenAid stand mixer to a whhooorrrllliinngg standstill at a most inconvenient moment and generally throwing off my baking timetable such that I scratched a couple of planned items from my list, I was pretty well on schedule for my ETA at the FM when I left the house.

Then about 5-6 miles down the road and about a third of the way there, steam started coming from underneath my car hood.  Understand:  I live way out in the country.  There are no service stations around here.  I don't have minions at the ready to rescue me from car trouble.  There is a mechanic in our nearest town who has a tow truck but I'm fairly certain his shop is closed on Saturdays (as are many of my home town businesses, to my -- chagrin?  annoyance?  incredulity?) and I don't even know its name or phone number.  I do, however, have not a minion or a knight in shining armor but a good family friend who, if he's available, has helped me out of the occasional scrape involving vehicles and plumbing and heavy lifting.  So in a panic -- and that's so me! -- I called him and said I thought maybe I'd blown a radiator hose or something and could he please come help?  Actually I didn't have any specific idea as to how he could help beyond looking under the hood and telling me what was wrong and I guess giving me a lift back home and helping me figure out a plan of action to get the car somewhere it could be repaired -- I hadn't thought that out, panic mode being what it was.  I was maybe 15 miles away from where he was, but he made his way to where I'd landed, at a propane (and propane products?  I've never seen Hank Hill there) and Amoco station which is, kind of oddly, out in the middle of my nowhere and which is, kind of amazingly, open until noon on Saturdays.

I had a car packed gill-high with breads and snackbreads and apple cakes and cookies and three different kinds of scones and I can't remember what-all and all I could think about, besides stupid car! how bad is it? am I going to have to get it towed? what timing -- it's the weekend! how long will I be without a car? was what in the name of sanity am I going to do with all this BREAD???  Fortuitously the propane/gas station employs a very nice lady with whom I have visited while filling up my tank, and who has told me she would like to stop at the FM on her way to work (she apparently lives on the other side of Kennett) but she must be at work at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday mornings so her hours are the same as the market's.  She was there.  I told her I was waiting for help for my car.  I told her it was full of breads and baked goods.  She bought several items.  I was somewhat relieved.

Eventually my rescuer arrived.  After a thorough examination and assessment, he determined that the steam that I saw resulted from an aged, sprung spring in the radiator cap that allowed excessive overflow to escape.  I just needed a new radiator cap.  Observe, above, the old.

Cost of friend-aid:  a dozen scones.

So.  I drove on to Kennett.  I set up although it was well past nine.  Nonetheless, I sold quite a lot of my stuff; yet at the end of the morning, I still had a couple of loaves of each kind of bread and a few snackbreads and one apple cake and three bags of cookies.  What to do?  What to do?

That afternoon I took them to my church and left them all in the kitchen.  I knew my fellow Methodists couldn't resist, and particularly in the summer someone or another brings in garden overruns to share, the double sinks on any given Sunday filled with okra or tomatoes or plums.  The next morning our organist, who always arrives at church early to make coffee, called to ask what I wanted done with all the breads and such, and offered to set out a donation bowl with the proceeds going to our animal shelter -- the perfect solution!  Everything was scarfed up and we gave more than $30 to the shelter.

As a post script:  many thanks to Pam whom I called to ask to go to the FM and tell one of the vendors to advise anyone looking for "the bread lady" of my perceived car trouble and likewise to Libby who posted a notice on facebook of my plight.  I have lovely friends.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Source material

I don't specifically recall growing up with a lot of cookbooks.  Plenty of cooking went on in this house -- both my mother and my grandmother, who lived with us, were wonderful cooks, and my dad was good in the kitchen and on the outdoor grill -- but generally speaking, the culinary music around here was "played by ear" -- or maybe taste buds or the nose.  Recipes, if written, were on cards; however, almost all the food we ate seemed to have been prepared almost by instinct.  From time to time my mother would write down and contribute one or another of our family's favorite recipes to a community or church cookbook, but most of those, I think, were originally acquired from the Wednesday food section of the Memphis Press Scimitar or the Commercial Appeal or the St. Louis Post Dispatch.  Or they came from my aunt Bobbie, who liked to collect recipes and try out new dishes.  But anyway, other than those church ladies' fundraising publications or the like, we didn't have more than just a few cookbooks.

When I was probably still in grade school, Mother received a New Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook for a Mother's Day gift.  It was a ring-binder book with loads of bright color photos of food.  It's still here.  The pictures are much less appetizing than they were way back then -- lots of casseroles with corn flakes on top and hams with pineapple rings and maraschino cherries in the centers.

Also in our home, we had Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Cookbook.  That likely came for Christmas from some of our California relatives.  We thought it was the height of sophistication -- I mean, AMY VANDERBILT!  Fancy schmantzy stuff for the Missouri Bootheel.  Almost three inches thick and more than 800 deckle-edge pages, this hardback meant business.  There were no photographs, no color -- just simple little line illustrations every few pages.

I don't remember that my mother or my grandmother ever used it.

However:  at about the age of thirteen or fourteen, once I'd taken a junior high home ec class (an eighth grade requirement), I felt compelled, nose in air, to check out the Vanderbilt's contents.  What I honed in on (dangling prep; I know) was a cookie recipe -- "Spice Cookies".  Don't remember why.  Undertook to make spice cookies.  I remember it as a big deal.  Three -- count 'em, three -- kinds of spices.  I felt so challenged.  The recipe called for both butter and shortening.  This was back in the day when we didn't have sticks of butter or Crisco wrapped in paper marked off by tablespoon; we had to put a level of water in a liquid measuring cup and then spoon in enough fat to bring the volume to the required line.  It was tedious and tricky.  The dough required refrigeration to firm it up to work with it.  I was so impressed.  They were cutout cookies but I rolled the dough into lengths wrapped in waxed paper (this was before Saran Wrap, even) and when chilled, sliced it to bake.

Anyway, to shorten this tale. . . .  We kids loved the spice cookies and I made them for years.  They became our madeleines -- even now, as adults we can just conjure up their flavor in our minds and recall the sweetness of our childhood.

Although I can't even imagine how many years it's been since I've baked them, I decided last week to make the spice cookies for the FM this past Saturday, so I pulled out the Vanderbilt.  It kind of fell open to the recipe.  It's obvious that page 135 has known its share of daylight.

They were everything I remembered, very unassuming in appearance but tasting oh! so home-y.

But the story of the spice cookies isn't really the point of this post.  The point is this:  Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Cookbook is a cookbook I genuinely like.  It has probably over a thousand recipes in it, it's well-written and easy to follow, it's NOT full of exotic or particularly complicated recipes and as best I can tell, virtually none of them calls for ingredients I couldn't find right here at any of the local groceries (and that's saying something).  It's an extremely practical cookbook and it's pretty well comprehensive.  And I'd always been oddly charmed by the drawings -- they're very precise and geometric, perfect circles for dinner plates and triangles for cheeses.

I appropriated it at some point and took it back to Dallas with me and I have made a number of dishes from it (although not the one with the potato-stuffed prunes).  Back about twenty years ago my friend Laura asked me to teach her to cook, and it was the book we used and from which she learned.

I guess it was around then that I took a moment to check to see when it was published (1961).  And oh, my stars!  Just take a gander at the title page and the illustrator's credit.

Who would've thunk?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

for Kay

My (also) wonderful friend Kay is summering in northern Michigan.  (What charmed lives others lead -- trips to Africa, cool-weather resort vacations -- even my sister is going to Marin County in a couple of weeks!  Me?  Well, all Monday morning was spent at the doctor's office with my mom, and Tuesday we had a big storm that caused a serious electrical brown-out here at the house and the co-op told me to throw circuit breakers and unplug all the appliances until they could take care of it, which took about two hours and nonetheless caused our HVAC to burn out a contact switch of some sort, so yesterday afternoon as the indoor temperature approached 80 degrees our repairman -- also wonderful, by the way -- came and replaced it, and Thursday Mother's having a transfusion so there goes a baking day.  I won't go on; I promised not to get all personal on this blog.)

Kay has long been an inspiration to me.  She got me back into knitting, and got me into spinning, and we have spent many many hours reveling in one another's company.  Kay has been following my summer project here and has been nothing but supportive and encouraging and helpful, and she wants some cookies.  And some rosemary knots.  And  some Dilly Bread.  And an apron.  (Is that everything, Kay?  Did I get it all down?)  She suggested once that I include photographs on the blog of works in progress.  I have to some degree taken that suggestion to heart, but you may have noticed that I'm not a very skilled photographer, or food stylist.  Pioneer Woman I am not, nor do I pretend to be.  (My daddy wasn't an orthopedic surgeon, and our family doesn't rank among the top 100 largest land owners in the U.S.)  Experiments of a Farmer's Daughter is not actually a food blog, per se, either.  Though I do covet the Drummond kitchen. . . .


Here, Kay, is evidence that your Espresso Pixies are shortly on their way and you should have them before the Fourth (I hope to ship out this afternoon).  Also in this package are the molasses spice cookies and a little extra surprise.  I love you!


I have some wonderful friends who have a daughter who is in the Peace Corps.  I'm so admiring.  She's in Zambia.  They're going to visit her next week!

Her mom, Libby, comes by my bread stand just about every Saturday and is a loyal platinum-level shopper (that means she buys generously).  She's usually sort of late and on occasion, by the time she shows up, I've run out of what she wanted.  But she just gets something else instead.  (Platinum.)  On Fathers Day weekend I introduced the Suds beer shampoo at the FM.  I told Libby that beer is a great hair conditioner.  She said her hair didn't need conditioner (lucky lucky woman).  But she bought some Suds anyway.  (Like I said, platinum.)

That was two Saturdays ago.  Last Saturday when Libby came she told me she really liked the shampoo and she's been trying to tell people how much she likes it.  So that was neat.  But it gets better:  she bought another bottle to take to Blair, the altruistic -- and I mean that in a GOOD way -- daughter.  And she had seen my earlier Bagatelle post.  I hadn't brought any of the bags to market last Saturday because I was still tweaking the pattern, but I said, "Libby, you need one of those bags."  She said she was the ultimate bag lady and had more than enough bags, so I said, "Well, then, Blair needs one."  (I'm such a subtle saleswoman.)  And she agreed!  Now I have a bag all finished and ready and set aside for Libby to pick up come Saturday.

So my Suds shampoo, and my Bagatelle market bag, are headed across the pond next week!  Akiddledidivy's gone international!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Review and reassess

The Kennett Community Farmers Market has migrated to the west side of the square.  The motive for that was that we thought we might avail ourselves of morning shade cast by the courthouse.  Somehow the sun found us anyway and it was, once again, a hot morning.  And here I'd worried about rain.  Yesterday we had six vendors (including me), which I think was pretty good.  One fellow came late pulling a flatbed trailer loaded with corn -- wow!  And he drew a lot of attention.  So we had pretty good traffic, too, but we were doing all right before he got there.

"Pretty good" twice in one paragraph?  My skill at articulation is apparently not at its optimum presently.

I finished up the zukes from Grover (which I had shredded and refrigerated earlier) by making two more batches of zucchini bread, baked 8 loaves of the savory herbed bread, 6 of the honey oat, and 4 of the dilly bread.  All of that excepting one of the herbed bread sold.  I had 16 dozen cookies -- snickerdoodles, hermits, Toll House and banana nut -- and almost all of them went, too.  And even though the powdered sugar dusted on the top of the fresh apple cakes kind of melted as the cakes warmed up out in the sun, no one cared and they all sold out.  It's interesting -- I'm trying to keep my wares changing from week to week, but when I don't bring some item I'd had previously, inevitably I'll have a customer ask for it.  And that's great -- I'm not complaining!  So next Saturday I'll be sure to have STBO bread again, and the applesauce cake mix, and scones, and molasses spice cookies.  I may have to set up a "By Special Request" corner.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011






 After and in progress:
All cotton and oodles bigger and stronger than a Walmart bag, with straps wide enough that they won't cut into the bend of the arm and deep enough to slip over the shoulder.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

And I said to myself, "Self,

this is what ten dozen cookies look like at a quarter to five in the morning."

Two dozen more in the oven and another four dozen to go.  Sold 'em all in less than two hours.  Bring it on, Girl Scouts.
For the curious, clockwise from upper left:  cinnamon raisin oatmeal, molasses spice, orange macaroon.  The fourth kind was espresso pixie.  Without reference, I believe about a pound and a half of butter went into the making of these beauties.

I love to bake cookies and have about twenty different kinds in my immediate repetoire.  I'm going to make a concerted effort to add a rotating selection to the weekly fare this summer.

Friday, June 17, 2011

New Bread on the Block -- er, the Square

Honey Oat Bread.  Beautiful.  Yummy.  Eat 'em up.

And I've made Dilly Bread again for the FM this weekend.  I bought a couple of new baking dishes just for this bread, because I wanted to bake two loaves at once (which hasn't worked out, but anyway), and the loaves bake up so high in them they look like babkas!  At least, I guess they do -- I don't think I've ever personally seen a babka.

More Savory Herbed Loaves, more scones, more snackbreads (cherry vanilla this time). . . .

Father's Day Stuff for the Farmers Market

I think that Father's Day gets the short end of the stick.  Mother's Day is the big blowout and Father's Day is kind of an afterthought, like, oh, yeah, Dad, I love you, too.  And I don't know about you, but my dad was always really hard to buy for (sorry about the dangling preposition -- it's the sort of thing up with which I dislike putting, but expediency is the issue this afternoon -- I need to get this posted!).  It didn't help that he had a habit of buying himself whatever he wanted so that we were left puzzling over what to give him come gift-giving time.

Okay, so blah blah blah -- I'll get on with it.

I've got some items made up for Father's Day gifts for the Farmers Market tomorrow morning.  None of those "World's Greatest Dad" mugs or stupid ties here!

Dads around here work in their yards and their fields and they play golf and they fish and since I just heard on the afternoon weather report that it's been above 90 degrees every day for the past three weeks, it's a good bet they've been getting hot and sweaty doing these things.  This is big gimme cap country:  hair gets all sweaty, slap a gimme cap on it (or wear the cap all day long and let the hair get all sweaty underneath it).  To the sweaty hair rescue:  Suds beer shampoo.

Yes, there is beer in it (Miller High Life, to be precise, but the alcohol's been cooked out of it so I won't be checking your children's IDs when I sell it) -- and beer is a terrific conditioner.  Suds doesn't smell like beer, either, and that's a good thing -- who wants beer-smelling hair?  So how about that for a fun Father's Day gift?

There's something about men and pancakes.  Specifically, men like to make pancakes.  Mostly they like to flip them.  And eat them.  And make them for their kids on weekend mornings.  But most men don't like to make pancakes from scratch; they go with a mix (it's easier).  However, pancake mixes taste like mixes, and they've got all kinds of preservatives and who knows what-all in them.  They're not healthy.  My pancake mix, however, is healthy.  I know everything in it -- oatmeal, whole wheat flour; just good stuff.  And it has no preservatives but will last for weeks in the fridge.  So I've made up jars of it for Father's Day gifts, with a brief note of preparation instructions attached.

And check these out: 

 Aren't they neat?  Little tiny succulents!  Cacti!  Not much bigger than a quarter!  Well, actually, that's not quite accurate but I had a quarter handy when I was making these shots and wanted to show them to scale.  The pots are about the size of a business card.  The plants are, every one of them, thriving, and it's hard to kill a cactus, even for most dads.  Regardless, I'll have care instructions included.

Remember the zucchini bread in the previous post?  Good dad stuff.  And there will be zucchini muffins tomorrow, too.

Cookie samplers:  I'm making up little trays of an assortment of cookies, four to six different kinds (I'm not sure yet, so no photos).  Good dad stuff.

Last week I baked some fresh apple cakes for Farmers Market and they were a hit.  I plan to bring a few of those tomorrow as well.

I love this grilling apron as a Father's Day gift.  And see how the dishcloths match?

So tomorrow morning, come shop the Kennett Community Farmers Market (I think that's what it's called) for different gifts for Dad, all under $10 (and most in the $2 - $5 range).  You won't find any of these anywhere else.

Oh -- and we've moved to the west side of the Courthouse so we're in the morning shade now, which is great!

To adapt an adage concerning citrus:

When life (or in my case, my wonderful FM neighbor Grover the Gardener, who always trades with me) hands you zucchini



Thursday, June 9, 2011

My boyfriend's back!

There he is!  Photographed through the window screen, I'll grant, and I was standing precariously on a tiny stool and leaning over a sink of water, afraid I'd drop the camera (one of those Peter Lik moments) -- all in all, an unsteady hand, but isn't he amazing?  Can you blame me?  I'll be singing Leslie Gore the rest of the afternoon.

Sorry for the digression but I just had to show him off.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Right Out of the Oven

Dilly Bread.  For the curious, yes, there are dill seeds in it, and onion, and a secret ingredient.  Okay, that's enough arm-twisting.  The secret ingredient is cottage cheese.  But you can't taste it.  Or at least I can't.

My mom is having it right now on a cold plate of baked ham, cheese, olives and apples.  That's her supper.  I'm having it right now with butter globbed on it.  That's my supper.

Wow, is this tasty!  And I understand it's better the next day but it may not last that long around here.  (Kidding!  This is a big loaf.)  I can already imagine it as toast and as a terrific sandwich bread.

I'll have this at Saturday's Farmers Market.  It's too good to pass up.

The Baker, the Bathers, and the Bathos

I was a college freshman soaked in lovelorndom, nights of Joni Mitchell's "Blue" playing in my dark dorm room, blueberry-scented candles burning.  There was this boy. . . .  My best friend that year (who was much more successful in affairs of the heart) and I wasted lots of time spring semester snipping up magazines for interesting images and odd but meaningful phrases to glue onto boxes and various other small items, and one of the things I "decorated" was a pencil cup which, now faded and tattered, I still have.  Among the bits I found the very apropos (for my situation) line "and spend all day watching out the window for him. . . " and of course it took a place of prominence around the top of the pencil cup.

Well, here we are decades later.

With all the baking I've been doing for the FM, I seem to be continually washing up beaters and bowls, measuring cups and wooden spoons.  It's inefficient to load the dishwasher because I use the same bowls and utensils over and over throughout the day.  My hands are in dishwater a good deal of the time and yes, it's obvious.  Thanks for your concern.

I have a window over my kitchen sink.  Who doesn't?  Mine looks out onto our very countrified farmstead back yard (read: I need to get the weedeater fixed and I need someone to mow my grass), where we have a water tap that evidently leaks underground a bit (another thing I need to get fixed).  The leak has formed a depression around the pipe that stays filled with water, for which I apologize to the people of Third World countries who walk miles every day for a muddy bucketful.  I truly do feel guilty about this.  However: the birds LOVE this puddle.  They congregate around it from midmorning to late in the afternoon.  They get right into the middle of the pool and duck their heads and flap around and get all wet.  They hover over the water and then land in it, pretending to be waterfowl.  They visit like old men at the local cafe, and I suspect they'd play Moon and 42 if they had a set of dominoes and opposable thumbs.  I figure they gossip and tell bird-lies ("And that worm was th-i-i-i-s-s-s long!").  Lately I've had mostly redwinged blackbirds and purple martins (yay!  Take that, mosquitoes!) and grackles, but last month there were four beyond-beautiful jewel-tone indigo buntings -- which in all my years we have not had on this place -- who hung out nearby.  And there are a couple of pairs of cardinals and a few brown thrashers who come around; the mockingbirds drop in occasionally and yesterday I saw a pair of doves.  A killdeer kind of stands to the side of the flock, watching.  We have barn swallows who have made their nest directly over the hood of my car, as they do every year, but they don't frequent the pool, at least not when all the other birds are present.  For a while I had a bluejay who parked on the faucet but I haven't seen him lately.  Where am I going with this?  Well you may ask.  About a week ago I had my hands in the dishwater and looked out through the window and spotted a spectacular bird -- about the size of the killdeer but with a black-and-white speckled body.  He had lengthwise stripes down his head that looked almost like a racing bike helmet.  But his throat and breast:  oh, my!  a brilliant yellow, with a deep black V like Guido's open shirt collar.

Well, of course I had to fly to my bird book and try to identify this glorious creature and so I did:  he's an Eastern Meadowlark.  He's been back just about every day since, and although I have my camera in the kitchen windowsill I haven't been able to photograph him yet, so this is a borrowed image from Wikipedia or the likes, but this is exactly what he looks like.

I'm in love again.  And I'm spending all day watching out the window for him.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Jeepers, it was hot out there!

From whining about rainy Saturdays so that I can't go to market, now I'm complaining about such heat this morning at the FM that I couldn't stay for the duration.  I had my straw hat, I had my two super-sized mugs of iced water (more than half a gallon), I had my patio umbrella, there was a little breeze, I was thinking, okay, the worst of the heat won't hit until the afternoon.  By ten I began to fret.  The Mix-in-the-Pan Chocolate Cake, with the bag of chocolate chips and walnuts, was a casualty:  the chocolate chips had completely melted.  (Fortunately I only had one of these left.)  I was not getting sunburned -- I kept moving to stand under the umbrella's shadow -- but my skin was getting hot.  I packed up before eleven and headed home.  I couldn't stand the heat.  I went back to the kitchen.

But it was a good day!  I sold all the STBO bread, all the scones, all but one of the snackbreads, all the Rosemary Knots, all but one of the Savory Herbed Loaves.  I sold apricot honey and jars of baby carrots in sweet balsamic vinegar with red peppercorns.  I have no more dog biscuits!  I sold a scrub-and-soak set (left over from Mother's Day weekend), and Granola-to-Go Bars.  And all that's off the top of my overheated, aching head -- I haven't made an inventory yet.  I came home with much much less than I took.  I traded for gorgeous yellow squash and another of the vendors generously gave me her last bag of green beans before she left.  The people across the way sold out their zucchini before I could get over there to snag some.  They had potatoes, beautiful big onions, and peck baskets of green beans.  Eye-popping veggies -- and the gardens are only just starting to come in.

We had steady traffic all morning.  Maybe next Saturday the temperature will be a bit less oppressive, but I'm starting to think that I'm going to keep abbreviated hours out there, at least in high-summer conditions.  All my baked goods are wrapped, and as hot as it was today, they were sweating.  I'm concerned about compromising my products -- nice crusts go soft, for instance.  Yep, this is an experiment, all right.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Li'l' D's long-promised cookies and so on

I have a long-ago sweetie who presently makes his digs in Florida.  Earlier this year I baked and sent him some cookies, and some time back I promised more, but the whatevers have gotten in my way.  I finally got these baked up for him last night:

They're called Espresso Pixies, and here's kind of why:  they contain crushed espresso beans and they're like little brownies; in the fairy world, apparently pixies are mini-brownies.  Very chocolate-intensive and about the same diameter as an Oreo (but pudgier), Espresso Pixies are also loaded with walnut pieces.  These cookies essentially have the same chewy-with-a-crust texture as brownies and are seriously addictive, but beware the coffee beans!  The first time I baked these, I quickly ate more than I should have and got a caffeine buzz.  I'll be offering Espresso Pixies by the dozen at Farmers Market in future weeks.

And these are Rosemary Knots -- bite-sized to eat with cheese and fruit.  Like breadsticks, they're sort of hard on the outside but soft within and are fragrantly laced with rosemary. I'll have a few dozen of them at FM tomorrow morning.

More Savory Herbed Loaves, STBO Bread, and scones (I'm thinking lemon apricot this time, along with more orange cranberry) will be available tomorrow, as well as snackbreads, Granola-to-Go Bars, and some of the other items I've had in the past weeks.  I'll also be bringing a few small jars of baby carrots in a sweet balsamic vinegar with crushed red peppercorns (sooo good!) and some apricot honey.  And this time I plan to have a tasting table so a selection of these goodies can be sampled.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Digression / Distraction

Today I have to attend a potluck luncheon meeting of the planning committee for next year's Book Club meetings.  Our hostess asked if I could bring a meat dish.  I was too lazy to go grocery shopping so I made do with what I had at hand -- which was bacon, cheddar cheese, broccoli, yellow bell pepper, and green onions -- and I hope it fits the bill:

Personally I love quiche.  And I love a rustic crust -- it says "homemade".  I could have made a prettier one but again, this was a lazy woman's project this morning.  I figure this is appropriately retro for our little group.  By the way, this month's Bon Appetit says "no more cold pasta salads!" but I'll bet I'm the only one who'll be at the luncheon who read that.

I've written this post to support the prediction that my Wednesday's likely shot so that I'm going to be crunching time the rest of the week to get ready for Saturday's FM.  Oh, well.

Friday, May 27, 2011

A-market we will go

Sundried Tomato-Black Olive Bread; Herbed Loaves

So -- at this writing, late Friday afternoon, I have two more loaves of herbed bread making their second proof, and they're almost ready for the oven.  Yay!  The kitchen smells so mmmmmmmm when I bake this bread, seasoned up with garlic, oregano and basil.  It's become my go-to bread recipe for extended-family dinners because everyone loves it and it's kind of a departure from the more traditional dinner rolls.  (Sometimes I have to make an extra loaf for my nephew Matt to take home.)  The herbed bread has a nice crunchy-but-not-too-hard crust, and I think it's best when served warm.  It reheats well wrapped in foil; it also freezes well.  But my very favorite way to eat this bread is lightly toasted, then slathered in butter and jam -- there's something about the savory with the sweet. . . .  No -- wait -- maybe my favorite way is as the bread in a grilled cheese sandwich.

Okay, now let me tell you about the sundried tomato-black olive bread.  Let's call it the STBO bread.  This stuff is loaded -- and I mean loaded -- with sundried tomatoes and black olives.  And some basil.  Its flavors border on the intense.  It's dense, and moist, and some might call it decadent.  It's one of those "guilty pleasure" breads.  Serve it with cheese or alongside soup (I know it's nearly summer, but this bread is a reason to crank up the A/C to eat a hearty bowl) -- the STBO bread is a novel alternative to jalapeno cornbread.  Ooh, or have it with a glass of wine!  This bread is wonderful whether at room temp or warm and can be frozen if you must hide it from filchers (or yourself).

And for breakfast, or snacks, there are the scones.  I have often found scones to be sort of dry and sometimes too big and maybe not all that tasty.  But the ones I make are the opposite on all three counts.  I've got cranberry orange and cinnamon raisin for the farmers market this Saturday.  Here are the mini cinnamon raisin ones, which I'm batching up by the half-dozen.  There's a larger size, too.

I've also made fresh granola bars in bundles of three, and they're packed with cranberries, apples, almonds and sunflower seeds, with a hint of cinnamon.  A good friend of mine says he doesn't like crunchy food, but this morning he dropped by and I forced one of these on him.  He would have professed to conversion but he was too busy eating.

Anyway, these are just a few of the items I'll be purveying tomorrow at the Downtown Kennett Farmers Market.  Take a look at my earlier blog posts to see other things I'm offering.  If you're around, come by!

Saturday, May 21, 2011


Well, I feel foolish.  After all that hand-wringing over the weather, and finding rain outside before daylight and drizzle around daylight, I chose not to undertake packing the car (not a small task) and motoring to FM this morning if only to unpack and set up (another not-small task) and then get drenched or scramble not to get drenched.  And now it's a lovely day.  A bit windy, but even yet. . . .

Fortunately I had homes for much of the baking, so it won't go to waste.  Just to waist.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Brad likes them -- so do Monkey, Satch and Smiley

Okay, these are some sirius treats.  (Get it?  Dog?  Star?)

Two dozen to a 32-oz jar, these stellar (can't help myself) dog biscuits are made of all good things, like whole wheat flour, oatmeal, beef broth, brewers yeast.  I'm pricing this at $7.50 -- because if you bring the empty jar back for a $6.50 refill, we'll etch your pupster's name on it.  Fair enough?

I'm working on kitty treats, but you know how cats are -- they want the moon.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

ANOTHER rainy Saturday???

I'm rather anxiously following  Word is, it's going to rain on Saturday.  I got rained out the last time I did the farmers market (and I think I might be referring to that from time to time and probably fairly frequently as "FM").  It's troubling when a good deal of my merchandise is baked goods, and therefore perishable.  A fair amount of it -- like the snackbreads -- stays pretty fresh for several days if I keep it in the fridge, but my fridge only holds so much. . . .

Right now I'm working up a batch of mint jelly.  I have a healthy 4-year-old patch of spearmint so it seemed only natural I make jelly from it, since all I've ever done with it previously is put it in iced tea. 

The kitchen smelled great while I was pulling all these leaves from their stems.

Then I chopped up several pounds of Granny Smiths (did you know apples are the base of mint jelly?), tossed 'em in with the mint and brewed up this mush:

and began to strain out the juices.  Slowly.  Very very slowly.  I've got a bit over 3 cups' worth of juice right now and it's been dripping for 2-3 hours.  I'm supposed to reap about 5 cups of juice for the jelly.


I don't have a lot of patience.  As they say, stay tuned.