Old Recipes, New Recipes

Susan at Our French Oasis recently published a recipe both for mince pies and their filling. It was too tempting to resist. I have long had my grandmother’s recipe for mock mince meat, which was quite tasty. Still, when I received the recipe, I was astonished at the quantities, even as someone who cans. It is in pecks and pounds. There is a lot of boiling and re-boiling and rinsing and boiling again in it. So even though it was delicious, I have not made it.


Susan’s recipe was smaller, very similar to my grandmother’s except for the green tomatoes, and did not require boiling water processing. I thought, ‘now here’s something I can make.’


The recipe calls for raisins, currants, sultanas, orange and lemon, apple, brown sugar, spices most people have on hand, and a little brandy. I got to work this afternoon and pulled all that together on the stove. Susan mentioned she likes to toss in a handful of cranberries, which were not available in France yet, but I had them on hand.


She recommends making the pies in a muffin tin. It works a treat!

This stuff smells fabulous while it’s cooking, which is part of the point of holiday cooking. Once it was done, I followed her instructions for making mince pies using a muffin tin.


And here they are with their tops. And a bit of cinnamon sugar…

The nice thing about these delicious little treats is that they are small and–at least with this recipe–not too sweet. I can see having these with coffee, tea, or a robust red wine. Check out her blog for all the details. These are fast and very tasty.


I’ve been feeding these to people and so far, they have all been pleased.

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A Lovely Day Out

Yesterday I went with my friend Les to pick up her wine order at Paradise Springs Winery outside Clifton, Virginia. We planned to stop in Clifton, which is an old town with a history of railroading and lumber. It has a lot of gift shops and small businesses, including the Italian restaurant, Villagio.  We came out from a fine lunch, thinking to head to another gift shop before moving on to the winery, but walked right into a parade.


There were a lot of people watching and some trapped cars.

There was a fine crowd there for it. It must have been to kick off the Christmas season, because there was also a house tour scheduled for the late afternoon and there was an art show as well. Les was told it was the horse parade.


It started with this tractor pulling a wagon load of carolers and Santa Claus…

The horses came after, some decorated with hats and some with riders decorated and dressed for the season.


Some of the horses had Christmas themed leg wear.

And some of the horses were decorated with wreaths, tail bows, and assorted other finery.


Odd the Christmas theme here, since the rider is wearing a Grinch sweater!

And then there was the Grinch!!!  Leading a very cute donkey decorated with Christmas tree lights.


It’s a Grinch!! Look at those adorable little donkey hooves…

The Grinch was closely followed by a contingent of cavalry, who drew their swords at one point, perhaps trying to scare the Grinch away.


The parade made a circle through the town.  It was followed, coming and going by some people with a wheelbarrow and shovel.  Yes, they had some work to do…


By the through loop, many of the children were off their ponies, which might or might not have behaved badly in the parade. We did see one horse kick another, but all told it looked fun for everyone. Except maybe the street cleaners…

After the parade, we went out to the winery, which was also hopping.  We tasted some wine and bought some wine.  I’ll be going back here for the quickness of the get-away, the nice little town, and the fabulous winery.  It was really a delight to make a trip and be surprised by a celebration.  Do I need to get out more, or what?



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Ah, the Joys of Thanksgiving Weekend

I must say, Thanksgiving weekend was fabulous. A good dinner with friends; sleeping in; getting my 40 year old recipe book reorganized and the new recipes that had been stuffed in the front or back put on pages and inserted in the right place; and as you might expect from me, some work in the garden!


Yup, garden put to bed. I still need to clear the small Plot Against Hunger Garden, but that should not be too hard…

I had also been wondering what to give a friend who is expecting a baby in February. It is her third, so she is pretty fully equipped. Nonetheless, every baby needs some new things, so I thought about a stuffed felt animal, but then I thought maybe I could make some slippers for the cold February.


I did a little research. How big is a newborn foot in inches or centimeters? Well, as you might guess it varies, but a three inch sole was recommended for slippers, so I went with that. My guess is they won’t fit for long.


I wanted to blanket stitch them together, but they were too small, so I did that around the top.

May you have warm slippers yourself as we head into colder times!

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Pause, Cook, Enjoy

If I’m thinking straight, Thanksgiving is a time to take stock of the year, make course corrections and give thanks for the good fortune of family, friends, work, a home, and a generally optimistic outlook, which can help with the things for which one isn’t thankful.


A walk before or after dinner is always good–either to work up or work off. My guests would not be arriving until the afternoon, but another friend escaped the kitchen for a walk on Roosevelt Island. I wasn’t taking pictures on this junket, just talking, listening, and looking, so the photos are from a prior walk in November.


Afterward, I went back to my kitchen and started work. My brother called while I was stuffing lemons and apple slices in the chicken, so I put him on speaker and kept working. I had five people coming, so I did the fat chicken (alas, while I like turkey, the quantity left over from six people would pall over the coming week), a squash, some beans and the dressing.


Other goodies coming were an array of hors d’oeuvres, au gratin potatoes, rolls and wine. Glad I had that walk before! And then there was the gravy. Yummy it was: salty, sweet, apple infused and every last drop licked up.


Happy Thanksgiving!

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Fall Cleanup–In Stages

I have a lot of work to do in the garden. We had a hard frost on Friday and I did not go beforehand to get the last of the peppers and tomatoes. Ah well. I did get in there yesterday and pull the last of the zinnia skeletons and the Jerusalem artichokes, not to mention the frosted pepper plants, tomatoes, eggplant, et cetera…So it looks like this now… very end of season.


Next step: a good weeding and dig.

It’s going to take several weekends to weed, lay down some composted manure and leaf compost in my garden and the small Plot Against Hunger garden, then go after the zinnia skeletons outside the fence. I am still recovering from an evil virus that had me sick most of October, so can’t go at the cleanup for four or six hours at a time the way I normally would.


Some mustards, arugula and frisee survived the freeze.

After things are cleaned up and composted, I’ll set out my cold frame and plant some lettuces in it. I may also plant some beets under the accelerator, but we’ll see how ambitious I am for winter gardening. Right now, I’m feeling as though next spring might be perfect.


The accelerator last year at this time–I was a little farther ahead!

I do still have some turnips in the garden that I’ll be harvesting, but they should not look like this. I will be seeking out a new seed supplier next spring because I keep getting the wrong thing in the seeds of the supplier I used. Once a daikon radish in amongst the French Breakfast radishes; once Kentucky wonders in a Blue Lake pole bean package.


Mystery veggies or mutants? They are NOT purple top turnips.

In the meantime, I’m paying more attention to my three indoor plants. I had to apologize to the African violet on Friday for not raising the blinds earlier. The other plants (and if anyone knows what they are, do tell–there is a story behind them) don’t mind low light, so I merely promised them water soon.


Have a good week folks!!!

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Transitioning to Deepest Fall

I didn’t get to the garden this weekend. There was too much going on Saturday, and Sunday was wet and cool. But I thought of some photos I took in late summer that I never shared because I wasn’t blogging.


The zinnias, joy and scourge of the garden, were such a lovely restaurant for birds, bees and butterflies.


The figs, not mine, were ripening on their tree.


And who can resist a sunflower?


But it’s fall now, and although it sounds like November outside with the wind and rain, it is still not Halloween. I had read about people carving all manner of vegetables, including turnips, for jack-o-lanterns. I did not have a pumpkin, but I did have a small acorn squash, which I thought might make a good little lantern. I cut the top off and carved out a good sized hole, emptying the innards. I gave it a nice face, plopped it over a votive candle in a saucer, and behold! A pointy-headed jack-o-lantern.


I gave it a little vent at the back, so the candle wouldn’t gutter.


And in the deepest dark, it really does gleam. I expect to enjoy it for a couple more nights!


Happy Halloween!

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Sorry I Haven’t Written

Goodness. It’s been almost three months since I wrote a post for the blog. It’s been almost as long since I visited other blogs regularly. Honestly, I’ve really had only the energy to go on Twitter once in a while. I’ve gardened a bit, read a lot of fiction, followed as much news as I can bear, and just generally tried to hang on in the face of hovering dread about whether the guardrails of government can stand up to the reckless assault of a monster truck without brakes. It is emotionally exhausting.


Sage–I picked a few leaves. There will be plenty of uses for this in fall cooking.

I know quite a few of you are in the same place. Perhaps we can buck each other up periodically, exchange strategies for coping, and call each other to action when necessary. I don’t know.


Neeps! I am so tempted to boil and mash them, but they will probably be roasted…

But here’s what I’m going to try to do. I am going to exercise more and be out in nature more. Those endorphins can work magic. I am going to see friends more often rather than holing up. I am going to pay more attention to my spiritual life because being centered in a crisis cannot be bad. I am going to stay abreast not just of the outrage of the moment, but the news that gets lost in the magnified kerfuffle surrounding each breach of boundaries.


Yup, that looks like a fall garden…

It is truly fall. I have a lot of clean up to do in the garden, but yesterday I took in more than I expected to find there–turnips, tomatoes, peppers, lettuces, and some sage leaves.


Now these I did not expect, but peppers do traditionally bear until frost.

My gorgeous zinnias are at the end of their time and have no doubt seeded prolifically, but I will not be allowing them to take over next year. I have two rows of carrots coming up, some scallions, and a few radishes and turnips. They will take me deeper into fall.


Zinnias and Jerusalem artichokes. I didn’t have the heart to take all of them out since there were butterflies and bees on them still…

I am not sure what the winter will bring. I do know that we need to lean in to each other, for strength, for purpose, to know we aren’t alone.

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