They have a full bar, and the flora and fauna didn’t disappoint. I am thinking White Dog Cafe is missing some of their cougars. But then again if the cougars of the Main Line are migrating already, then you know Dan Dan is a hit!
I now understand everyone’s obsession with the Instant Pot. It’s definitely not your grandmother’s pressure cooker.
I am not Inspector Gadget in the kitchen, more of a traditionalist. Some things I have begrudgingly come to own because they make life easier- like my Breville blender. Or my crockpot.
But as much as I love fooling with my crockpot if you don’t have time for low and slow, well it boils stuff to death.
Anyway, people I know kept buying the Instant Pot so I started watching it and the prices have stabilized recently, so I splurged.
It sat in the box and stared at me for a week. And then I got sick, so I was not cooking much of anything.
I was craving plain chicken and chicken soup as I started to feel better but knew I wasn’t up to much in the kitchen- so out of the box came the Instant Pot.
Yes, I literally cooked a nice plain chicken simply prepared with just salt and pepper and Herbes de Provence in about half an hour!
I then turned around and took the chicken off the carcass and made bone broth in 35 minutes using the soup setting – real gelatinous bone broth.
I also made a pot of chili for the rest of my house yesterday using canned beans and ground beef in 10 minutes on the Instant Pot chili setting after browning the ground beef and onions using their sauté setting. Next time I would reduce the liquid as the chili came out thinner and darker like Texas chili. (I like a thicker chili)
It took a while to read the manual and then I will admit I watched a few YouTube videos on using the pot and cooking with it, but when you are sitting in bed getting better, there is the time to do that.
For years I had avoided pressure cookers. The old stovetop ones would create one hot mess when they exploded. I remember a food on the ceiling incident at my great aunts’ when I was a kid- the pot lid flew off. But this is so different with so many safety bells and whistles- it practically speaks to you.
Anyway, I don’t gadget very often so I thought I would share!
Happy Sunday 😊
The day before Thanksgiving and I’m starting preparations for dinner tomorrow. I’ve learned little tricks over the years like making the broth for the turkey out of the turkey gizzards and neck is easier done the day before. Once that broth starts cooking my kitchen is filled with the smells of Thanksgiving for the first time.
Along with the smells of Thanksgiving come memories.
Memories of Thanksgivings past.
I actually woke up this morning thinking about Thanksgivings of my past.
When I think of the holidays I always think of my late father as well as my late brother in law because they both loved Christmas and Thanksgiving. When they were both alive Thanksgiving could almost be exhausting because they were perfectionists, but the meals were awesome!
I have some very fond memories of Thanksgivings at my sister’s house in New York before my brother-in-law died. They have a beautiful dining room that is almost a square in shape so my sister uses two small tables that are round versus one large table. I think after both my father and brother in law being lost within a few short years of each other it has taken us a while to get our Thanksgiving groove back.
When my sister and I were really little I remember going to my Uncle Jackie’s and Aunt Connie’s house for Thanksgiving.
All of my cousins, us, aunt and uncle, and Mumma and Poppy. Due to family drama I don’t have very many memories of very many of these Thanksgivings. But those I remember being much more fun than the Thanksgivings we spent at my father’s sister’s house.
My aunt, my father’s only sister, has never been an easy woman to read. I have always felt she didn’t like me very much or my mother and was jealous of my late father. She did seem to like my sister. Her daughters well, they were fine to get along with when we were little, but as we all grew up we did not have much to say to each other and still don’t to this day.
I have a distinct memory again of when we were very little, and my Aunt Theresa and Uncle Serge lived in Paoli. Paoli was still a bit rural in spots. I remember they lived down a really long driveway in a white farmhouse. It was a really cool farmhouse and I seem to recall it was Victorian in nature. I don’t know that anybody has photos of it anymore but I have a distinct memory of a Thanksgiving there.
It was a big crowd for dinner and I remember that the kids had their own table set up outside the dining room in the front hall by the staircase. I remember that we ate black eyed peas as one of the dishes. My uncle is Cuban, and I also remember his mother was still alive.
Many years later we all tried the Thanksgiving together again with them when my grandmother – my father’s mother – was still alive. At this point my aunt and uncle had settled in Chestnut Hill where they still live today. I remember that Thanksgiving is being technically beautiful but emotionally cold. And I remember their dining room in their house in Chestnut Hill was quiet and dark, even in candlelight.
I remember other Thanksgivings we spent with our family friends the Cullens. They had been our neighbors in Society Hill when we were really little and they first moved to Bethesda because Mr. Cullen’s job took him to Washington DC, and then later they moved to Summit, New Jersey because his job eventually took him to New York City.
Growing up the Thanksgiving dinners we had with the Cullens are among my happiest memories of Thanksgiving as a child. Those were the holidays that were alive and boisterous and fun. Mr. Cullen was a tall Irishman with a big chest and a wonderful voice. And he was funny and he would say funny these things and you could just see the twinkle in his eye. Mrs. Cullen is still one of my favorite people on the face of this earth. She is one of the brightest people I’ve ever had the privilege to know and she is also probably the closest thing to Julia Child I will ever know as a home cook.
The thing about Thanksgiving dinners with them is it bought out the best in everyone. Although Mr. Cullen like my father, died years ago now, the family remains dear friends.
I especially liked the years they lived in Maryland because we would go down there for the weekend pretty much, and I would be able to wander around Georgetown while we were there and discovered fun things like Kemp Mill Records. That was this awesome record store in Georgetown where I listened to artists like Al Stewart for the first time.
We had other Thanksgiving dinners that were just our family and smaller that were equally memorable. It was always fun getting the table set with my mother and laying out the flatware and the china, making sure the crystal glasses were all sparkle and no smudges. The good smells eminated from the kitchen all day until dinner time.
Other memories of Thanksgiving include when I was in my early to mid 20s and my girlfriends and I would always go to West Chester for years the night before Thanksgiving. We would go to the Gobble Off at the Bar and Restaurant in West Chester. I have written about this before, it was just that much fun. Now we’re all purported grownups with our own families and that seems so long ago and far away. There were other night before Thanksgiving nights out with my friend Pam in Manayunk. I forget what the name of the restaurant is where we all used to meet in those days but it was a lot of fun as well. Pam would get all sorts of people together from high school and she made the evening fun!
Along with the Thanksgiving memories are the years that were like being banished. It was because of a prior relationship that I used to have to go into Central Pennsylvania basically. It was like being a stranger in a strange land and sadly these were the people that were almost my in-laws. I just never quite fit. That made it hard before any of the other stuff.
They weren’t bad people. One sister-in-law probably because she wasn’t related to the siblings by blood I liked in particular, still do. Before she divorced her husband (my ex’s brother) I honestly did enjoy going to Thanksgiving at her house up around Mechanicsburg. She and her mom were all about tradition and it was festive and warm. But the majority of the years I spent going to another almost sister-in-law’s house outside of Allentown. That was not so much fun.
The entire car ride up my ex would berate me about one thing or the other. Usually he yelled. Why was I wearing what I was wearing? What I could say and what I couldn’t say, and basically the entire duration of our relationship he didn’t want me getting too close to his family and didn’t share the few friends he had. It was always an unpleasant ride up. By the time I got to his sister’s house I was a bundle of raw nerves.
When we got to his sister’s house, which was a townhouse development on the edge of a golf course, we would circle around for parking and eventually find the spot he deemed suitable. Then we would haul in my contributions to the meal. And we generally speaking, well that was me.
When you got inside the townhouse you had the welcoming smell of a Thanksgiving dinner. Unfortunately you were also met with some pretty somewhat bitter and somewhat dissatisfied middle-age women all divorced older than myself. The nieces and nephews were nice when they were in town, but I couldn’t hang out with the kids I was one of the grown-ups.
One of the most amusing part of those Thanksgiving dinners in exile was the way every year the one sister magically made photos of my ex’s ex-wife fall out of the drawer or a book somewhere. And I also never understood why they went to the trouble to cook a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner and have people around the table and not put the food out in nice containers. They put the disposable aluminum pans and plastic containers and what not right on the sideboard.
The Thanksgivings I spent in exile so to speak made me appreciate my friends and family all the more. Not every Thanksgiving is perfect, we’re human they are not supposed to be. And even on the Thanksgivings that don’t quite end up the way you envision there is always good. Or at least humor.
I think we all have this goal to become like a Norman Rockwell painting for one day. The problem is we can’t help but fall short because we are actual people not subjects of someone’s artistic mind’s eye.
I love hearing about my friends’ traditions. I woke up this morning thinking of someone I used to know who always spoke about making creamed onions in a sherry cream sauce every Thanksgiving.
Now sprinkled in between all the homemade Thanksgiving dinners were a couple club and restaurant made Thanksgiving dinners. Those were beautiful dinners and we had a lot of fun, but it was sort of anti-climactic because you didn’t wake up the next day to Thanksgiving leftovers and that is part of the fun of Thanksgiving.
I think Thanksgiving is a holiday is something I enjoy more the older I get. I don’t know if that makes any sense. I think part of it has to do with feeling somewhat like I have come into my own. But I do love Thanksgiving and even more so, Christmas. I am the crazy person that likes to put out the china, iron and do up the old table linens, and decorate and cook.
We all have a lot to be thankful for, even if it is not always immediately apparent. Hearth and home are powerful motivators. My wish for this Thanksgiving is as a country we start to put aside all the political divisiveness of this recent presidential campaign, and remember what it is to be an American.
I don’t know about you but I am tired of all the hate and violence. I am tired of the protests. I am tired of the anger. It’s exhausting even to avoid. I hope everyone takes a breath tomorrow and enjoys the company they are with. tomorrow literally is the day to be grateful for what we have and who we have in our lives.
Well I have to get back to my meal preparations, because when you’re a kid you don’t realize the preparing Thanksgiving dinner actually takes a good couple solid days of work!
Wishing all of you my readers, a safe and happy and blessed Thanksgiving.
I purchased some absolutely beautiful cranberries from Pine Barrens Native Fruits this year and today I made the Cranberry Sauce.
Cranberry sauce is so easy to make. All it is for me is 2 dry quarts of cranberries, 2 1/2 cups of orange juice, cinnamon sticks, crystallized ginger minced, 2 cups sugar , other assorted spices including cardamom,ginger , nutmeg , and powdered cinnamon. True that I add a pinch of salt, and to quartered navel oranges skin on. I also add a couple tablespoons of fruit pectin to help at jell even more.
I cook it down by close to half and then I remove the orange peel (The fruit by this time has basically cooked off each quarter of orange ) and cinnamon sticks and then I jar it.
I don’t do the canning bath for this. When the jars are cool I tighten the lids and refrigerate it. I basically only make enough to get through Thanksgiving and Christmas and then I make a fresh batch the following year.
I was given the gift of figs off of a friend’s fig tree yesterday, so even though I wasn’t sure I was going to be putting anything up this fall, this morning I made blueberry fig preserves.
2 teaspoons baking soda
8 cups fresh figs stems removed or 2 pounds of fresh figs
2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
1 1/2 cups fresh apple cider
1/2 cup water
1 cup turbinado sugar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
5 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract – pure only
1 lemon thinly sliced into rounds seeds removed
Juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
Half teaspoon ground cloves
Half teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
Healthy pinch of salt
Three cinnamon sticks
First dissolve the baking soda in about 2 quarts of cool water and immerse the figs in the treated water either in one half of your kitchen sink if you have a double sink or in a really large bowl. Gently stir to wash the figs using your hand in the water.
Drain the figs and remove all stems and cut in half and place in a bowl.
In a big stewpot or jam pot (depending on what you have) slowly dissolve the sugar, maple syrup, butter, vanilla extract, water, apple cider, spices and a pinch of salt.
Now that you have created a sort of syrup add your fruit – figs, blueberries, lemon slices.
Toss in the cinnamon sticks. Add the lemon juice.
Bring up to a boil over medium heat and stir a lot because the stuff will stick to the pan. Reduce heat to a simmer and stir gently occasionally and cook down until the figs are golden brown and the blueberries are so deep they almost appear a purple black.
As the figs are reaching the right color, I use an immersion blender to break everything up while continuing to cook down. I have friends who don’t do this at all and the reason I do it is because I like to serve fig preserves with cheese when company comes over and when there are big chunks of fig it makes it clumsy.
Truthfully this all cooked a couple of hours.
When your jam is ready to jar ladle it into your jars, leaving about a quarter inch at the top of room. Put your lids and rings on completely seal super tight and put them in your boiling hot water bath for 10 to 15 minutes. I will note that I looked at several recipes when developing my own recipe and people were processing anywhere from six minutes to 15 minutes in the hot water bath. I would say I processed mine about 10 minutes maybe a little less.
Pull your jars out and place on a cloth covered or wooden surface several inches apart until they are cool. Once the jars are completely cool press in the center to make sure they are sealed. Store in a cool dark area and wait at least two days before opening. I personally like to let my preserves said a couple of weeks before I try them.
Another important note is this is a recipe without using pectin. So it will probably be more loose than a jam made with pectin. You can make it both ways. I have always made fig preserves or fig jam without pectin. This is also the first time I’ve actually ever written down or looked at recipes for the jam – I’ve just always winged it and it’s turned out fine
The West Chester Growers Market is the mother of all the locally sourced, outdoor farmers’ markets we know in this area. (Or that is my opinion.) They started right where they are now, at the corner of Church Street and Chestnut Streets in downtown West Chester Borough. They are, save one exception I will get to, a producers only market. As the market says on their website:
Producer-only requires that the fruits, vegetables, herbs, plants, beef, pork, eggs, flowers we have to offer you be farmed by the farmer that you meet at market; that the cheeses, salsas, sauces, pies, jams, pasta, honey, breads be sold to you by the local artisans who make them.
I was honored to be asked to be part of the West Chester Growers Market’s July 30th “Know Your Farmer: Chef and Media Event”. It was great to be among the ranks of local chefs, food writers, and well-known local food bloggers.
Last Saturday was brutally packed, but as I arrived for event check-in a little after 9:00 a.m., the market was already jam packed with customers. As I walked down a rear alley that T-bones the alley directly behind the market, the happy cacophony of people enjoying their morning, the market, and chatting with the farmers and artisan vendors could be heard floating in the morning air.
I will be honest, parking was a challenge. That is not the fault of the market, that is a chronic problem with the Borough of West Chester, unfortunately.
My first stop was a place that isn’t yet a place which is new to the market. The “West Chester Food Co-Op.” They are the non-producer with a place at the market.
Yes, I have been open about my skepticism. Can’t help it, given the chair of the “co-op” board and her position as Secretary of the West Chester Borough Planning Commission. I mean let’s get real: if it smells a wee bit political, it may well be political, right? I didn’t get when I commented way back when how they were asking for “donations” when they were not a non-profit and that is perfectly reasonable. If you are asking for money, and you ask for “donations”, it is what people naturally think.
I heard about them seeking a building and location and so on, and more asking for “donations”. So if they are NOT a non-profit, does that make those who invest shareholders with ownership rights in the new business? If the business goes nowhere, are people refunded their investment? And again, why call it a “donation” if you are in fact some sort of shareholder investing?
Anyway, when I last expressed my opinion on a co-op that doesn’t really exist the knives and scissors came out from some. So, sigh, I expect it again. But I have to ask are my questions/concerns so extraordinary? Seems to me a lot of people have them.
So, anyway, I thought I would be fair and give them a shot to tell me about themselves and answer my questions. I wouldn’t be rude, but they are part of the market as of 2016, so I figured why not talk to them? (I will note they did not seem to participate in this market initiative, but benefited from it.) I went up to their table which was in the alley next to Queens Farm.
They had sweet kids as volunteers and the woman in charge of the co-op who is on the West Chester Borough Planning Commission was in attendance.
The kids volunteering couldn’t answer my questions (including how they came to be at the market when they were not well, an actual producer) and I was told she was too busy to speak with me. The kids were nervous seemingly to tell me that, so I thanked them ans said another time then.
O.K. so I went about my business but will also note that I brought people with me to the market on Saturday who don’t blog, they don’t know about the co-op and one person said when we were in the car leaving that they wished the food co-op luck because the people at their table were rude to them. These are people that were completely unbiased and open to the concept of a food co-op as they have been exposed to them in other stages of their lives.
The make-believe food co-op was the only negative of this whole event. I remember a food co-op from when I was little. It was a really cool place. I like them, I just don’t get these people and what their eventual end game actually is. And Saturday would have been their ideal and perfect opportunity to change MY mind. They did not achieve that, sadly.
The West Chester Growers Market event was incredibly positive, so back to that. Sorry, I just feel badly that actual producers put their hearts and souls into their products that they bring to market to sell. The space that “co-op” takes up could go to another farm. To me that is depriving the general public and taking money OUT of a farmer’s pocket.
Some of my personal favorites include Yellow Springs Farm, North Star Orchard, Blueberry Hill Farm, Applied Climatology, A Taste of Puebla, Queens Farm, Lizzie’s Kitchen, Fahnstock Fruit Farm, Big Sky Bread, Maiale Deli and Salumeria, Big Hill Ciderworks, Read Earth Farm, Maple Hill Farm, and Chile Spot. I know, I know that is like most of the market. But these people are awesome, and they remember their customers which is something in today’s world I personally love. That added personal touch, remembering what you like.
Take Lizzie the Amish Lady from Lizzie’s Kitchen, who said to me “You are one of those people too?” meaning I was one of the writers/bloggers. I smiled and said yes and then we spoke about what she was preserving and baking. We spoke about Shoo Fly Pie, because hers is one of the only ones I actually like and will buy. My maternal grandmother was Pennsylvania German so I am picky about my Amish/Pennsylvania German Foods. We had a conversation about canning, something I have taken up again on a limited basis (I know my limits!) and the milk delivery service I use (Doorstep Dairy – they are awesome!)
I also hung out with the North Star Orchard folks. Lisa Kerschner and her staff are as nice as they are knowledgeable. Their products are amazing, and on Saturday they had their beets. They grow these multicolored beets which are as spectacularly flavorful as beautiful. These beets are their own home grown/ developed variety. I love when they are in season because I especially love roasting them and serving them in a salad with Chèvre from Yellow Springs Farm.
And yes, one of my next stops was to visit Catherine at The Yellow Springs Farm Booth. Yellow Springs Farm is one of my favorite places on earth, and I also patronize them at the local markets. I have known Farmer Catherine for many years at this point – we knew each other before her farming days began and she is one of my favorite people and her husband is such a lovely man. I not only buy their cheese, but their yogurt, soaps, and many of their native plants grow happily in my garden! (And they let me photograph the mama goats and the new kids in the spring!)
I also have to give a big shout out to Vera Pasta. I make a lot of my own pasta but their artisan pastas are divine! Their ravioli in particular!
And did I mention the most adorable Jack Russel puppy ever? The West Chester Growers Market is pet friendly, so if you are a dog lover, you see some amazing pups.
And now some photos. Enjoy them. And support the West Chester Growers Market. It is an amazing group of people. I look so forward to being a regular customer for decades to come! These are our farmers, and in Chester County we need to support our agricultural heritage. You can’t get fresh produce from a row of plastic McMansions, after all.
The West Chester Growers Market is one of the finest local examples of what the locavore movement is all about. Know your farmers, know your producers. Support them and shop local.
Thanks for stopping by!!