Tuesday, March 31, 2015

March Madness

While nearly all Kentuckians are obsessed with watching March Madness unfold on the basketball court, my eyes are watching for evidence that Spring is unfolding at Farm Dover. Which is more mad?

Friday, March 27, 2015


Nearly every meal that I've made for Ed and me in the past two months I've served in simple white bowls. For breakfast, it is steel cut oatmeal, granola with yogurt and berries or cream of wheat. For lunch and dinner it is sometimes a soup; sometimes a stir fry; sometimes a salad. I fill our bowls with goodness and it is always enough – not too much, not too little, always just enough.

We gave up drinking alcohol for Lent, so "setting" the table involves filling our two bowls, figuring out if we need forks, spoons or chop sticks, and filling two glasses of water. It's weird how simple this feels to me – but it feels just right, right now.

I'm not sure how I got in the habit of serving our meals this way. Perhaps it is left-over from our January Asian travels where we scooped bits and pieces of our meal into rice bowls. Or maybe it comes from our experience of placing food in monks' bowls at day break in Chaing Mai, Thailand.

Perhaps it comes from reading too many food blogs that boast the merits of "abundance" bowls. Or maybe it comes from buying six bowls to go with my mom's china and then being excited to use them.

Whatever the reason, it suits me for now. Perhaps later in the spring, I'll want to spread out the bounty of our garden on large white platters, and in summer, I may want to go back to my bright colored Fiestaware. But for now, these simple bowls are enough, just enough.


What to know what I've served? Check out these links:

Corn Chowder
White Chicken Chili
Chili Con Carne
Green Chili with Pork and Hominy
Tom Kha Gai Soup
Cold Lentil Salad With Cucumber and Olives
Mango Salad
Chickpea Salad with Lemon and Parmesan
Gingery Roasted Butternut Squash and Sweet Potatoes
Bubbling Bacon Butter Beans
Spicy Thai Steak Salad
Coconut-lime Sweet Potato and Chickpea Stew
Black-Eyed Pea Cassoulet
Minty Millet & Pomegranate Salad
Butternut Gratin
Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala
Linguine con Vongole

Can't wait to move on to bowls full of spring peas and asparagus...

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

In the land where fairies dwell

Fairies are invisible and inaudible like angels.
But their magic sparkles in nature. 
– Lynn Holland

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Make it your own

Remember playing "telephone" when you were a kid? Someone would whisper a phrase and it would be passed along from person to person. The last person would repeat what he/she heard and it would be quite different from the original phase -- sometimes outlandishly so.

Well, that is what happened to the cake I baked this weekend. It all started with this cake recipe developed by dessert genius Alice Medrich. It was a dark and spicy pumpkin loaf and it is featured in her new cookbook Flavor Flours.  The cake ingredients included buckwheat flour, pumpkin puree and raisins. 

Cookbook blogger David Lebowitz was inspired by the recipe, but changed it up a bit to include white flour (instead of buckwheat), a yam (instead of pumpkin puree) and apricots (instead of raisins).  He also added a cream cheese frosting. 

One of my favorite bloggers, Shauna James Ahern, took a crack at making it gluten free and chose to add dried cherries in place of the apricots, tossed in a cup of chopped hazelnuts and baked the cake in a bundt pan instead of a loaf one.  She chose not to frost it at all.

I took it from there and substituted a cup of black walnuts (which Ed had nicely harvested last fall, husked, cured in our garage all winter and then cracked and carefully dug out the kernels) for the hazelnuts. I also added a teaspoon of homemade vanilla and drizzled some dark chocolate on the cake's top.

So what started out as loaf cake with pumpkin and raisins, ended up as a gluten-free bundt cake with cherries and walnuts. Oh, and don't forget the chocolate frosting. 

I served my own version of the cake tonight and it was well received.
Ensor sisters, with Agathe (French exchange student – far left) and Jake (friend of Belle's)
came out to Farm Dover for a BBQ dinner, followed by Sweet Potato-Cherry Bundt Cake.
Here's the recipe that I used. 

How would you make it your own?

Sweet Potato-Cherry Bundt Cake, adapted from Shauna James Ahern, who adapted it from David Leibovitz, who adapted it from Alice Medrich. My changes are noted in italics. 

115 grams (about 2/3 cup) dried cherries
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup water
225 grams (about 1 3/4 cup) Gluten-free Girl all-purpose flour blend.
(I used Bob Red's Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour -- but I am planning to purchase the Gluten-free Girl's blend.)
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
200 grams (1 cup) organic cane sugar
90 grams (1/2 cup) coconut sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
75 grams coconut oil, melted
zest of 1 lemon
1 cup sweet potato puree
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
125 grams (1 cup) toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
(I used black walnuts instead of the hazelnuts)
Prepare the cherries. Chop the cherries as finely as you can. Drizzle the cherries with the honey, then cover with warm water. Let the cherries sit for 30 minutes, then drain the cherries. Save the water. Set aside.
Prepare to bake. Heat the oven to 350°. Grease a bundt pan liberally with coconut oil.
Combine the dry ingredients. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.
Make the batter. Whisk together the cane sugar and coconut sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. With the mixer running on low, add the egg. When they are light and fluffy together, drizzle in the melted coconut oil and mix until coherent. Mix in the lemon zest.
Finish the batter. With the mixer running on low, pour in 1/2 of the dry ingredients, then the sweet potato puree, then the rest of the dry ingredients. Add the cherries and hazelnuts, then drizzle in the leftover honeyed water until the cake batter is light and pourable.
Bake the cake. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the top of the cake has started to brown, the edges are pulling ever-so-slightly away from the sides, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes.
Allow the cake to cool to room temperature before removing it from the bundt pan. Serve immediately.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The bowl of oranges is no more

On our recent trip to Southeast Asia, Ed and I were served small glasses of juice every morning. Sometimes it was mango, sometimes coconut, sometimes watermelon, sometimes passion fruit, but always fresh. And always delicious.

With those fresh juices in mind, I decided this morning to juice all the oranges left in the big wooden bowl on our counter, the ones we picked down in Florida last month. The ones that didn't make it into the batch of marmalade.

They didn't look like much. Their skins were thin and getting hard, but it seemed a shame to just toss them in the compost pile out by the garden. So I sliced into one and found it full of juice. I set to work. Using a hand-held olive-wood juicer I cranked my way through the bowl of oranges and watched the measuring pitcher fill up with fresh juice.

Once done, I strained the seeds out and filled a half-gallon mason jar.

I took a sip.  It tastes nothing like store bought juice. It tastes lighter/fresher than the Simply Orange or Minute Maid juices that I used to buy. It tastes just like the oranges I've been eating for the last month from our bowl on the counter! It smells just like the marmalade that I made last week from the bowl of oranges on the counter! It is the essence of the bowl of oranges that sat on our counter. It doesn't taste like the bowl of oranges on your counter, only the ones on my counter. Duah!

(If you have ever wondered why the brand of orange juice that you buy always tastes exactly the same from bottle to bottle, but distinctly different from another brand, click here. Be forewarned, it isn't pretty.)

It's a lot of juice – more than Ed and I will drink this week – but I'm thinking of making a mocktail to serve to my nieces who are coming out tomorrow with their French exchange student. If you have any ideas, send them my way.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Would you like to try a little marmalade instead?

   "Many people
     Think that
     Is nicer.
     Would you like to try a little
– from The King's Breakfast by A.A. Milne

I made a batch of marmalade on Wednesday afternoon and it was quite nice. Peeling a bowl full of oranges and lemons and then chopping the peels into thin ribbons was both beautiful and fragrant.

On and off during the afternoon, I had flashes of déjà vu.  I think it is because my grandmother always served orange marmalade on her peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (with the crust trimmed off). I don't think she make it herself, but kept a crock of Dundee Orange Marmalade in her hallway closet pantry. If I remember correctly, she would then use the empty jars to organize some of her sewing supplies. I wish I had some of her old jars. Aren't they fabulous?

Two forces came together to inspire me to make a batch of this citrus peel jam. The first was I had a very large bowl of citrus that I picked on our recent trip to the Juniper Club.

And secondly, my sister Kathy gifted me my mom's copy of A.A. Milne's "When We Were Very Young" and it features a funny poem about a King who wants a little bit of butter on his royal slice of bread.

Turns out the alderney cow didn't wish to oblige the dairymaid with cream for the butter and suggested that the king might like marmalade (thickly spread) instead. He did not. He wanted butter.  

I think marmalade doesn't get the respect it deserves in my part of the world. Grape jelly is more likely to be spread on U.S. pb&js. Marmalade is highly regarded in the British Isles and its many former colonies. Food writer Elizabeth Field wrote an extensive history of marmalade for her Master's in Gastronomy. Imagine that! 

I love to learn about the history of foods. It adds a whole other level of appreciation to my interest in all things culinary. According to Ms. Field, marmalade had its beginnings more than 2000 years ago when it was first made as a solid cooked quince and honey paste. 

The switch to orange marmalade happened in Scotland in the 1790s when imported Seville (bitter) oranges were used to produce a thinner form of marmalade, cooked for shorter time. Soon enough Scottish cookbook authors turned marmalade making into an art form, introducing the term "chips" for the shreds of orange rind that were included in the jam. Its popularity got a boost with the new Scottish pattern of serving marmalade as a breakfast and tea-time food rather than an after-dinner digestive. 

Janet Keiller, of Dundee, Scotland, was among the first of a series of late 18th and early 19th-century Scottish grocers' wives who established commercial marmalade factories. Her business prospered. In 1828 her son, James Keiller, joined the business and changed the name to James Keiller & Sons. (Seems to me he should have changed it to James Keiller & Mom, but he didn't ask me.)  It is still available today, but the jar is not nearly as coveted.

In addition to spreading on toast, I'm planning to mix my marmalade with some soy sauce and use it as a marinade for tonight's salmon dinner. Just realized it is almost 6:30, I better get cooking...

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Sisters celebrating sisters

One funeral and two snow storms later, we finally celebrated my January birthday and my sister Kathy's February birthday today at Farm Dover. Ed returned from an afternoon of Shelbyville errands just in time to take a photo of the four Carpenter girls.

Growing up, my mom always liked to dress us alike; that tradition obviously continues today with plaid scarves from my recent trip to Cambodia.

My youngest sister pointed out that we are now sisters representing our 40s, 50s, and 60s. I won't say which one is which.

It was a rainy day, but we had a fire to keep us warm and lots of laughter to brighten the afternoon.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Birthday Boy and His Party Planner

Happy birthday to brother-in-law Steve. And yes, he was surprised by his party yesterday afternoon.

A very, very fine house

Home is where one starts from.
– T.S. Eliot

Ed and I drove to Owensboro yesterday to help celebrate my brother-in-law's 65th birthday/retirement. Ed's sister, Gay, had planned a surprise party for Steve and we had strict instructions to arrive at 3 p.m. on the dot and park around the corner. 

Not wanting to be late, we left Farm Dover before noon and made it to Owensboro in time for a BBQ mutton sandwich at Old Hickory. Still we had an hour to kill before the party, so we drove around town. We checked out the new hotel and convention center; we stopped in the International Bluegrass Museum to purchase tickets for this summer's ROMP Bluegrass Festival; and then circled around town stopping to remember certain old houses and the people who lived in them. It has been 50 years since Ed left Owensboro, but I can tell he still loves his hometown. 

We pulled up to the corner of Daviess and 7th Streets and Ed pointed out a beautiful white frame house. It was the house he was born in (okay, he was actually born at the Owensboro-Daviess County Hospital, but this is where he lived until he was about seven). The house looked loved and well cared for and that was pleasing to both of us. 

Across the street is an empty lot, the site of the old Galloway Market, run by Galloway brothers Ira (Ed's dad) and Hugh (Ed's uncle). 

I'm sure the neighborhood looked a lot different when Ed was growing up there. I like the idea that his mom and dad worked just across the street and I imagine little Eddie Lee running back and forth between the house and market. The church they attended, Cumberland Presbyterian, was over on Ninth and Cedar Streets and and his 1st-grade school, Franklin Elementary, was within walking distance.

I recently read a blog post that notes how children's first homes are their introduction to architecture and they leave lasting impressions that influence how they view their world. I'm glad Ed grew up in this house. Architecturally, it has great "bones", there was (and still is) a pride of ownership, there were plenty of trees to climb and back alleys to explore, kids could walk or bike all over town, and play cowboy and indians with their cap pistols and (suction cup) bow and arrows outside until dark. 

Remember the house you grew up in. What was it like? What do you remember about it? How did it influence your view of the world?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The sun came out...

...And the skies turned blue. Could feel the sun's warmth. What a difference from this morning.

Reporting in at 14+ inches

In direct contrast to my last post (from Florida), we awoke this morning to more than a foot of snow – and it was still coming down. Once the flakes quit falling, I went walking.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Taking a break from the snow

Ed and I left town last week for a few days of fishing at the Juniper Club in central Florida. I've written about our times at Juniper on a number of occasions (here and here and here). The thing about the Juniper Club is not much changes from year to year. That is mostly a good thing.

I count on getting excited coming down the gravel drive to the old wooden clubhouse. I like unpacking our bags into the tiny dresser and metal lockers and testing out the squeakiness of the mattress on the metal twin beds that are wedged into the room. I certainly appreciate not having to think what's for dinner -- or breakfast or lunch.

I love cruising out of the Silver Glen – Ed at the boat's helm – headed across Lake George to the Little Juniper River with the boat's well full of flopping shiners and our poles rigged up for a morning or afternoon of fishing for large-mouth bass. I don't even mind standing in line out in the upstairs hallway waiting for one of two showers designated for the women before heading downstairs for cocktail hour, communal dinner, and the marking of the board of the day's fishing reports.

We were down there for a week this time and to shake things up just a bit, we took off two afternoons for hikes, both just down the highway from the club's entrance in the Ocala National Forest. We hiked the Yearling Trail and Florida Trail out of Hopkin's Prairie. Both were easy hikes that led us along a sand path through palmetto scrub, pine forest and live oak groves.

I'm putting up a few pictures from our week to give you an idea of what a special place the Juniper Club is. Here's what  you see once you turn in the drive.

Live oaks dripping with spanish moss line the gravel drive
There's an old orchard that grows in the clearing just before you reach the clubhouse
Our room for the week. Cozy, but comfortable.
The Ladies Bath, reminds me of living with 12 little girls in two straight lines. 
That's Kim, getting dinner on the table before playing the chimes (back left corner) to announce "dinner is served."
Once we were settled in our room, we head out for some fishing, making our way slowly out the Glen, watching carefully for manatees that make their way to the warmer waters of the glen and loll around in groups of two or three.

Some new duck boxes have been scattered along the Silver Glen

An island that sits at the mouth of the Glen
Once we are out in open water, we "resume normal operation.'
I like this sign a lot. What's normal?

Then it's open water, all the way across Lake George.
Sometimes it is smooth as glass; other times, prepare for whitecaps!
We make our way up the Little Juniper River, where we find more than fish. 
And sometimes, we find fish! 

We bookended our trip with dinner in Atlanta with our friend Jeananne and a visit with Margie and Billy in Destin on the way home.

We are back home now, finishing up unloading the car. I brought a bit of Juniper home with us. On the last afternoon, I picked a bunch of oranges, grapefruits and lemons. I think I'll make some orange marmalade (which always reminds me of this A.A. Milne poem).