Top of the Notch

I spent Sunday afternoon lazing about Plymouth Notch, Vt. It was a girl-only, somewhat aimless trip where my only objectives were to learn a bit of history at the President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site, soak in the sunshine (humidity-free!), and eat a tasty lunch.
Mission accomplished.
I feasted on chicken salad sandwiched between Vermont-made bread. I downed my first-ever Moxie, the first bottled carbonated beverage made in America. And I sampled the all-too-awesome cheese crafted by the folks at Plymouth Artisan Cheese.
Lunch at the Wilder Restaurant: Just $4.25 for a half-sandwich the size of my face, made on Baba-a-Louis bread, a dill pickle and chips. The bucolic view made it even tastier.

Live your life with Moxie. Sold at the Florence Cilley General store — the only beverage sold at the general store — Moxie is my new favorite carbonated beverage.

But I did more than eat.
I met this gal.
I checked out the 1924 Summer White House (and former dance hall), nestled above the general store:
And I fantasized about owning a tea room like this:
Spot of tea, anyone?

I saw Calvin Coolidge’s tiny shoes, neatly lined up along a bedroom wall in his father’s house:
This is the house, not the shoes.

And I contemplated what it may have been like to use chamber pots back in the day as I explored the three Top of the Notch Cabins rented by visitors to Calvin’s Coolidge’s birthplace in the early years of the last century.
Pardon the view. It’s through a locked screen door.

And then I ate. Again. A Peanut Butter Lust Bar that I can’t picture here because, well, it all happened so fast. There was no time for picture-taking.
For more information about the Calvin Coolidge Homestead, click here.

Rosemary's Turkey

For those of you who aren’t grilling this Memorial Day and find yourself with a hankering for turkey, try this recipe from my aunt.

It’s simple and features my all-time favorite herb, rosemary, a sprinkling of brown sugar, a bunch of garlic cloves, and salt and pepper. Throw it all in the slow cooker and, 4-6 hours later, you’re experiencing turkey nirvana.

In the words of my aunt, “So easy, so moist, so good!”

Get thee to your slow cooker.

Rosemary Turkey Breast, Slow-Cooker Style
1 bone-in turkey breast (6-7 pounds)
6 fresh rosemary sprigs
5 garlic cloves, peeled
1-1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon salt

Place turkey breast (breast side up) on top of 4 rosemary sprigs in slow cooker.

Place garlic and remaining rosemary around turkey.

Combine brown sugar, salt and pepper; sprinkle over turkey.

Cover and cook on low 4 to 6 hours or until turkey is tender.

Note:  My aunt has “an ancient, small old-time crockpot and a 7-pound breast filled it, so [she] just put all the garlic and rosemary in the bottom of the cooker.”

However you smoosh it all in there, you won’t be disappointed.

We All Scream

Ben, Jerry and the boys

I remember my first taste of Ben & Jerry’s. It was outside the IGA in East Hampton, CT, with my friend Rachel. We were eighth-graders, loitering in the grocery store parking lot after school as only teenagers seem to enjoy doing. We each had a pint of Cherry Garcia — Rachel insisted we each have our own pint — and marveled at the generous chunks, the perfect cherries.

Never, EVER has ice cream tasted as good as it did on that hot day, sitting on the hot sidewalk, with my best friend.

Except maybe this past weekend. With my nephews. And the man in my life. And obscene quantities of frozen sweet cream that no 5-year-old, 10-year-old or 30-something-year-old has any business ordering. Servings larger than some of our heads. Servings that would later be regretted by a few of us.

But, really, we had to do it. We had journeyed to the mother ship, Ben & Jerry’s HQ in Waterbury, VT, and there was no going back.

We toured. We bought. We binged.

  Auntie, I want to stay here forever.
Cherry Garcia was had. Chunky Monkey was had. Shakes, cones and cups were had.
Lactose intolerance and bloating aside, it was an awesome day.
What’s your favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavor?

Sliders for the Slacker

Simple Sliders (my Honey Barbecue Chicken Burgers in miniature), originally published in Kids VT magazine.

Slack much?

I do. And I did. And I probably will again.

It’s my nature to slack off when not toiling away at work or making dinner or cleaning the toilet or running errands or otherwise managing the day-to-day doings of my life.

Good things happen when I let my slacker ways take over, I say. For one, I started this blog during a period of slackdom. For another, I discovered new television passions like “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad” and “Game of Thrones” — not to mention the beauty of DVR.

But slacking has its downside. It’s made me (made me, I tell you!) neglect this blog for far too long. Love & Scraps’ 199 Facebook fans are disappointed in my performance, I know. Or maybe they don’t care and haven’t noticed. Either way, it’s time to get back into the blogging saddle.

So here goes: Check out this link to my latest (and last) cooking column in Kids VT magazine. It features my recipe for Simple Sliders (my Honey-Barbecue Chicken Burgers in miniature). They’re moist. They’re delicious. And they’re pretty healthy, all things considered. Made with ground chicken, these baby burgers are given a boost by grated carrot, onion and Worcestershire sauce. Top them off with toasted mini-burger buns (aka dinner rolls) and your favorite cheese, and all is right with the world.

Make them today and eat them by the fistfuls while you and your loved ones slack away on this lazy Sunday afternoon.

Honey Barbecue Chicken Sliders
(written by moi for Kids VT magazine)
(makes about 12 sliders)

2 pounds ground chicken
½ medium sweet onion, grated
1-2 carrots, grated*
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, or more to taste
salt and pepper to taste
½ medium sweet onion, diced (optional)
1 cup barbecue sauce
¼ cup honey
12 mini-burger buns (dinner rolls work well), split and toasted
6 slices cheese of choice, divided in half (to make 12 pieces)

In a mixing bowl, combine ground chicken, grated carrot and onion, olive oil and Worcestershire sauce. Season mixture with salt and pepper. Form 12 patties from mixture.

Heat large skillet over medium heat. Brush it with olive oil.

Place patties on the skillet, being sure not to crowd. Cook the patties for about 8 minutes, flipping halfway through cooking time, until juices run clear when a knife is inserted in center. It may be necessary to cook patties in 2 or 3 batches, depending on the size of the skillet.

Set aside cooked patties on a clean platter.

Add diced onion to skillet, if using, and cook until translucent. Add barbecue sauce and honey, whisking to loosen any bits from the bottom of the pan.

Reduce heat to medium-low and return patties to skillet, flipping them to coat with sauce.

Place toasted bun bottoms on a platter. Top each with cheese and a patty, scooping up a bit of sauce to drizzle over top. Cap with toasted bun tops and serve.

Eat 1, Freeze 1, Gift 1

Rachel’s Bread, pre-decorations.

I am pretty loose-y goose-y when it comes to holiday traditions.Very few things recur from year to year: I may or may not have a Christmas tree (even though I love a good tree); I may or may not send out cards; I may or may not make a Christmas dinner.
It’s not that I’m a Scrooge, but because there are no kids around, the man and I tend to lean toward the side of doing whatever we feel like doing. (Last year, we made homemade pizza on Christmas Eve and binged on cookies on Christmas Day, before and after a big breakfast starring French toast.)

There is one thing, though, that I have managed to do most every year since I was 15 years old, thanks to a recipe shared with me by my best friend growing up, Rachel.

When I say best friend, I mean best friend. Rachel knew me inside and out and loved me anyway. She was the one person who “got me.”

Years ago, I tucked away our many notes from high school, passed during biology lab and complete with illustrations, in a greeting card box — to be whipped out whenever I needed a good laugh or even a good cry. This box of notes is one of my prized possessions. It’s moved with me from Connecticut to Maine to Maryland to Florida to Connecticut (again) and finally here, to Vermont.

In these notes, we referred to each other as “Fat Ass” and “Jelly Belly.” We drew pictures of where we’d rather be. We talked about the boys we liked — actually, usually men — really attainable chaps like those who starred opposite Julia Ormond in period films like “Young Catherine” and the 25-year-old substitute teacher. We trusted each other with our deepest, sometimes dark, secrets.

We cried in each other’s arms, and I have never laughed as much as I did while hanging out with Rachel.

When Rachel became a vegetarian, I decided I would still love her. And when I moved out of state and left all my friends behind, Rachel decided she’d still love me.

Not long after we graduated college, Rachel died.

It’s still somewhat unbelievable to me that my young, beautiful, intelligent, compassionate best friend is gone — I miss her every day — and for a long time I couldn’t forgive myself that I wasn’t there with her at the end. Maybe I haven’t yet.

I was far away, in the throes of my early 20s, out of touch with the people in the small town we had grown up in, and I had no idea she was sick.

It happened that fast.

Making Rachel’s Bread, a braided breakfast or coffee bread, is the one tradition I manage to continue from year to year. Rachel taught me how to make it in her mother’s kitchen. She showed me how to fake a braid and turned me on to dried apricots. She also showed me that a little Christmas kitsch with maraschino cherries and white icing is a good thing.

Braided “candy cane” bread filled with dried apricots and maraschino cherries is perfect for breakfast or coffee talk. Each recipe makes 3 loaves, so you’ll have a couple to gift if you tire of the ubiquitous cookie tray.

Rachel’s Bread
(makes 3 loaves)
Note: Rachel’s original recipe uses active dry yeast (2 packages), mixed with water. I use instant dry yeast, so I mix it with the flour first before adding to the rest of the ingredients.

2 cups sour cream
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/2 cup warm water
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 eggs

6 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
1 1/2 cups dried apricots, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups drained maraschino cherries, finely chopped
melted butter, for brushing on baked bread
icing (2 cups confectioners’ sugar mixed with 1-2 tablespoons water)
In a bowl, combine instant dry yeast with flour. Set aside.

Over low heat, melt 1/4 cup butter with sour cream, stirring until combined. Remove from heat.
Transfer sour cream mixture to a large mixing bowl. Add water, eggs, sugar, salt and a bit of the flour mixture. Beat until smooth.
Add the rest of the flour, kneading until smooth, about 10 minutes.
Transfer dough to a lightly greased bowl, flipping so that it’s grease side up, cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Punch down dough. Divide into 3 equal parts.
Roll each part into a 15×6-inch rectangle.
With a sharp knife, make 2-inch cuts at 1/2-inch intervals up each long side of the rectangle.
Place fruit in the middle and criss-cross the dough strips over top.
Stretch loaf to 22 inches and twist into candy cane shape.
Place breads on greased baking sheets and bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
Transfer to wire racks.
Brush with melted butter. Once mostly cool, drizzle breads with icing and decorate with extra cherry slices.
Eat one. Gift one. Freeze one for Christmas morning.

Spice and Everything Nice

Pumpkin Bread is in the oven as I write this, filling the house with the scent of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and everyone’s favorite Thanksgiving squash that begins with a ‘P.’ I haven’t had breakfast or lunch yet today — it’s 1:45 p.m. EST — and I will be hard-pressed not to do things to that bread that I really shouldn’t. Things like slicing it fresh out of the oven. Or burying my face in it. Or licking it.

But I won’t.

I’ll let the loaves cool on wire racks — completely — before swaddling them in plastic wrap and aluminum foil. I’ll let them hang out for a day or two before I ravage them. I won’t lick them so that I might share them with others.

Pumpkin Bread
(I copied this recipe out of a magazine several years ago; wish I could give proper credit. … It makes 2 standard-size loaves.)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 3/4 cups brown sugar, packed
15 ounces pureed pumpkin
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2/3 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour two standard-size loaf pans (9×5-ish inches).

Whisk together dry ingredients in small bowl. Set aside.

Gratuitous Pig Butt Shot

In large bowl, mix brown sugar, pumpkin, oil, eggs and water.

Stir in dry ingredients until thoroughly combined.

Divide batter equally between prepared pans and bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour.

Remove loaves from pans and let cool completely on wire racks.

A Saucy Reminder

The man and I went apple picking several weeks ago. Back at our place, we went apple eating. I made pies and cakes and, of course, sauce — twice. 
Applesauce is so easy to make that it didn’t occur to me to post a recipe for it until now. I figured everyone’s doing it, and why not? There’s no point buying the jarred stuff unless you can’t get your hands on apples.
I made my last batch in a slow cooker, but a covered, heavy-bottomed pot over low heat works just as well.
Spiced Applesauce
(Use this as more of a loose guide than a recipe. I NEVER measure when I make applesauce, and nothing has ever gone terribly wrong. Also, note that there is no sugar listed here; I don’t use it. If your apples are tart, feel free to add a bit of sugar.)
10 apples of your choice, peeled and chopped into 1-inch chunks (I used macintosh and cortland.)
1-2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Toss everything into the slow cooker, set on low. (Alternatively, hold back on the spices and use them to flavor the end product. I realize some folks don’t like brownish applesauce.)
Stir once in a while.
Cook until sauce has reached desired consistency. Mine took only about 3 hours — my pot runs hot and I like a few chunks in my applesauce.

Cider Duffins

Cinnamon-sugar donut muffins with a touch of cider syrup.

I don’t know about where you live, but here in Vermont come fall, cider donuts reign supreme, calling to tourists and locals alike from mom-and-pop bake shops, roadside stands, apple orchards, even gas stations. Sweet and fattening, these golden-brown chubbers are often sold in brown paper bags slightly stained with oil. More often than not, they’re still warm from the fryer. Praise be.
Thankfully, luckily, perhaps dangerously, cider donuts are easy to replicate at home in the form of Cider Duffins (you guessed it, a cross between a donut and a muffin). The batter is simple, and there’s no need for deep-frying. A swim in a butter bath before a tumble in cinnamon-sugar achieves borderline perfection in the donut mouthfeel department. If there is such a department. 
Cider Duffins
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 egg
1 tablespoon Cinnamon Cider Syrup*
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 24-cup mini-muffin pan.
Whisk together flour, nutmeg, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In large bowl, mix brown sugar, melted butter, egg, Cinnamon Cider Syrup and milk. 
Stir in flour mixture until combined.
Spoon batter into mini-muffin tin. (I used a 1-inch scoop and was not able to fill the entire tin — made about 18 as I recall.)
Bake in preheated 375-degree oven for 15-17 minutes. (While duffins bake, mix cinnamon and granulated sugar in small bowl.)

While still hot from the oven, dip each duffin in melted butter, then roll in cinnamon-sugar mixture. Set on wire rack to cool (or don’t bother and just eat straight away, as we did this morning).

* I buy my Cinnamon Cider Syrup, a tasty coupling of maple syrup and boiled cider, from Wood’s Cider Mill just up the road in Weathersfield, Vermont. Look here for more info.

Sweet Deal from The King

Love & Scraps fans: This post is especially for you.

King Arthur Flour shared with me an exclusive offer to share with you — 20 percent off a $90 (or more) order. Quick! Stock up your holiday baking supplies! This offer is valid through November 6 (that’s Sunday, tomorrow, so get on it).

I don’t normally put myself out there for products/brands/companies, but I make an exception for employee-owned KAF — generous, warm-hearted people and phenomenal products.

Follow this link to shop for your favorite baking goodies!

Coconut Love

Oatmeal Cookies with Toasted Coconut and Bittersweet Chocolate

I can’t seem to get enough of coconut these days, as evidenced by my recent posts for Pineapple Coconut Cream Pie and Love-My-Butt-the-Way-It-Is Bars — and by several extreme closeups of the stuff found on my digital camera.

I lust it.

And I lust it even more toasted (the coconut, that is, not me).

A pile of goodness, ready to be folded into oatmeal cookie dough.

So, given my lack of self-control when it comes to the white stuff and my surplus of old-fashioned rolled oats, I decided oatmeal cookies with toasted coconut were the way to go this week. They baked up chewy (in the middle) and crisp (along the edge) and after downing a few with a glass of cold milk, these swiftly became my favorite cookies. This week, anyway.

Oatmeal Cookies with Toasted Coconut
(adapted from Ghirardelli’s recipe for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 granulated sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups bittersweet chocolate chunks
1 1/2 cups flaked coconut, toasted*

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, spices and salt. Set aside.

In large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Mix in vanilla and egg until just combined.

Add flour mixture, mixing to combine.

Stir in oats.

Fold in chocolate chips.

Gently fold in toasted coconut.

Drop by rounded tablespoon — I use a 1-inch scoop (I like ’em jumbo and uniformly jumbo at that) — onto ungreased, cool-to-the-touch cookie sheets.

Dough love. (Truth be told, I give the dough balls a smoosh with the back of the scoop after placing on the cookie sheet.)

Bake for 8-11 minutes, depending on how chewy or crispy you like your cookies.

Let cool for about a minute on the cookie sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.


(*To toast coconut, spread flakes evenly on ungreased cookie sheet and bake in 375-degree oven for about 5 minutes, giving the flakes a toss every couple of minutes. Let cool completely before using in recipe.)