Annual Montpelier Hunt Races + Agua de Valencia, Butternut Squash Galette

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Majestic horses, beautiful friends and wonderful food made my Saturday complete. Watching the Montpelier Hunt Races has become a tradition for my family and friends, and this year’s day of tailgating was perfect, with unusually warm weather and plenty of sun relieving us of coats that we’d brought, just in case. You never know what Mother Nature will hold in early November. 

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All about apples: pie, sauce, butter, brandy and challah

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Fourteen pounds of apples may be just a few too many.

I didn’t mean to purchase this many, I truly didn’t. A half-bushel looked manageable at the orchard on a horribly rainy Sunday, but once home, the apples multiplied, filling bowls and counters, then forcing their way into every meal.

When I was three and a half, apples became applesauce, end of story. In what’s become a story told every year, when I was itty bitty, my parents had detailed to me our plans for the next day. Dreams of orchards full of trees and bowls full of applesauce apparently danced in my head overnight. As my mom tells it, I popped out of bed at 6 a.m. the next morning, ran to her room and stood right next to her face. “Pick papples, make papplesauce!” I excitedly announced. No time for sleeping–we had important fall activities. Just like picking strawberries and making jam has been a tradition for my whole life, so has finding fresh, local apples and making a simple, all-apple and no-sugar applesauce to stockpile in the freezer. Throughout the year, we’ll pull out the square Ziploc containers to enjoy our preserved fall bounty.  Continue reading “All about apples: pie, sauce, butter, brandy and challah”

TWD: Danish Braid

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First, go get some protein into your body. Some whole grains, fruits and vegetables too. You’ll need them in a few hours.

A recent Sunday started off with a bowl of steel cut oatmeal. And then my mom and I got to work on a pastry that would send my whole family into sugar-and-butter induced naps soon after. Even the barky old dog and energetic new dog crashed (after a dog park visit), and all was calm and quiet in the Roanoke household for an hour. Upon waking, my body craved an egg to put everything back in balance. Be prepared before you indulge, but either way, you’ll certainly enjoy these Danishes. Continue reading “TWD: Danish Braid”

Angel hair with burst cherry tomatoes

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Dinner this week should be something warm and comforting, like soup, macaroni and cheese or chili, to keep us going through this lingering, wet cold front. We need the rain, certainly, but four days in the forecast seems too much. Of course, the pup doesn’t mind one bit, and we must still trudge through the neighborhood morning and night, with waterlogged shoes and hair that looks like it just came from the shower.

If you’re looking for a stick-to-your-ribs kind of meal, this isn’t it. Because this pasta is instead light and healthy, and yet it’s still satisfying, invoking feelings of summer contentment and sunshiney happiness, even in the five minutes you may have to down a bowl before heading off to a meeting. A thin but flavorful sauce coats the angel hair, and is full of garlic-tomato-herb-cheesey goodness. For my produce-loaded countertop’s sake, this pasta makes good use of some of the cherry tomatoes I picked up last week, and best of all, it comes together in just about 15 minutes. Continue reading “Angel hair with burst cherry tomatoes”

How to make a better loaf of bread and other baking lessons from King Arthur Flour

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Remember that delicious loaf of whole wheat bread I made a few weeks back? The one with the HUGE hole running through? The hole certainly didn’t affect the taste, but besides being an eyesore, it caused peanut butter and jelly’s to become a sticky mess oozing from the bread. And really, that’s just not acceptable.

But a lesson from baking experts at King Arthur Flour revealed a better way to shape a loaf of bread, eliminating unsightly holes and encouraging a higher rise. The demonstration was a stop on the company’s fall tour across the country; the closest to Fredericksburg was in Fairfax. The drive up I-95 proved to be longer than hoped (doesn’t it always on Saturdays though?), but at least I didn’t have to drive to Vermont.  I was glad to have the chance to be among 150 or so other bakers learning tips to bake a better loaf of whole wheat bread from folks who really know their stuff. Continue reading “How to make a better loaf of bread and other baking lessons from King Arthur Flour”

Pizza with fresh ricotta, pesto and summer’s end cherry tomatoes

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For three summers in a row, I’ve planted tomatoes. Pots and dirt were purchased, weeks of ritual watering followed, and then I waited.

And for three summers in a row, I’ve picked a single, though beautiful, tomato. The pots didn’t work in the shady yard; bigger pots didn’t work either in another house’s sunny yard; and the holes in the ground just look like Rachel’s fault now. Cages and twine tying the vines to the fence didn’t help. Nutrient dense compost did squat. Vacationing–and not watering–during the hottest weeks in July and August certainly wasn’t ideal. Squirrels and birds also feasted on the green fruits. Nothing worked.

Apparently, I just didn’t inherit my father’s and grandfather’s green thumbs. Even basil and lettuce struggle under my not-so-watchful eye. Continue reading “Pizza with fresh ricotta, pesto and summer’s end cherry tomatoes”

Avocado toast with eggs for breakfast

Honey nut cheerios used to be my mainstay. For years, a bowl of this cereal–often topped with sliced banana–would fill me up until it came time for lunch. Little else filled the breakfast role. My mother must have purchased countless boxes of cereal, quickly turning to the larger bags of store brand instead. Occasionally, I’d opt for bowls of yogurt or oatmeal, but before too long, back to the sweetened o’s.

Maybe growing up, I needed consistency; change was bad, cheerios were good. Cereal was never a risky endeavor–there’s no way to go wrong. And back then, avocado never would have been anywhere near a breakfast dish. No way.

But. I didn’t know what I was missing out on. Accepting that change can (sometimes) be good, I vary my breakfast almost every day now. A few minutes spent cooking in the morning keeps my diet interesting, and prevents boredom at the kitchen table. Oatmeal sweetened with maple syrup and topped with almonds and chia seeds one day; peach pancakes the next; a fried egg sandwich later in the week; a veggie and feta filled omelet another day; and plain Stonyfield yogurt topped with local granola to round out the week. Blackberry scones, filled with the remaining (frozen) berries from this summer’s picking, will come up for their turn soon enough.

Of course, I have to say I’m very thankful that I have the time in the morning to cook as I please. Between the sunrise barks (aka the dog wakeup call) and a newsroom that starts the day closer to 10, I’ve got plenty of opportunity to whip up a little something simple, and to sit down to enjoy whatever it may be.

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Make your own whole wheat bread; why Michael Pollan insists

Mornings are cool now, sometimes even downright chilly. And with this fall weather, I’m ready to start baking again. Turning the oven on during the summer never seemed appealing–except for various pizzas, of course–so meals were often simple, little cooking required. No more. Let’s crank the oven on, pull out some yeast, and fill the house with wonderful smells that may even waft through our open windows. Perhaps we’ll finally meet our new neighbors this way. Cookies worked in college dorms, maybe bread is the secret in the real world.

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This loaf had a surprise inside.

One morning this week, after recovering from the previous three-article, 13-hour day at work, I made the most of my time at home before another meeting needed babysitting. That meant making bread, something I’ve been meaning to do more often, thanks to Michael Pollan.

More and more, after reading Pollan’s “Cooked,” I question the lengthy list of ingredients on the plastic wrapper. It’s been quite some time since I’ve even purchased “regular” sandwich bread at the grocery store, instead foregoing sandwiches for other dishes. That’s primarily because I can never even eat my way through a whole loaf before needing to store slices in the (overstuffed) freezer for safe keeping. Soon, maybe my loaves will be eaten more quickly, shared at the table, feeding not just one. Until then, I’ll share bread with friends and my sister, and cram lingering pieces into the freezer.

Continue reading “Make your own whole wheat bread; why Michael Pollan insists”