Right Next to Vermont

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The old joke goes like this: the best thing about Burlington is that it’s right next to Vermont. Funny, right? Well maybe not so much any more. Burlington is as much Vermont as Newport and Rutland, as Chelsea and Rupert. But here is something that isn’t a joke: New York is right next to Vermont, and it has some pretty sweet spots.

More than once on a summer evening we have taken a boat ride over to Essex, New York. Some dinner at the Old Dock, right on the water, and some ice cream at the scoop shop up the hill made for a fine end to a summer day. Since the ferry goes right to Essex, it is easy enough to walk on and ride it back to get home. No personal boat required.

I have taken that ferry many times to access the wonders of the Adirondacks. A couple of days ago a few of us took that ferry to take a hike. We took a car across and drove south from Essex. We arrived shortly at the trailhead to Split Rock. This preserved land has 11 miles of trails. We explored a few of those miles.

The woods are full of history. Wide spreading white pines tell of open fields. Thick, sturdy maples tell of houses that were shaded. We found cellar holes and rusted wheel wells from old cars. There is a wide diversity of trees, from sugar maples to red pine to hickory. The few birches, while and yellow, told us that the forest was old enough to have shaded those species mostly out. We saw garter snakes and the quills of a long dead porcupine. There was lots to see.

Most of what we saw was on the way out. This is because we had to hike fast when we started. There were so many mosquitoes that stopping for a minute or more was just not pleasant at all. We slapped and waved and brushed our way up to the first vista spot on our route. It was breezy there, with a nice enough view down to and across the lake. We watched sailboats and listened to Ospreys.

Our way down started along the ridge and we had another fine vista, this one more exposed with an even better view. The hike down was easy and gradual, and the mosquitoes had abated. We got back to the car for a late lunch and headed back into town. And that scoop shop? Still there. Went to it. Had delicious ice cream.

And we rode the ferry back. Riding the ferry on a perfect summer day, waves rolling across to Vermont, the sun shining on the islands and the mountains, the lake stretching north to Canada, really is hard to beat. We soaked in the beauty of it all as we stood on the deck, happy in the afternoon to be back home after a day spent next door.

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Good Day for Pie

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I’m not talking a sweet pie. I’m talking a savory pie. It was cold today, not freeze your hindquarters cold mind you, but seasonally cold. That means below freezing. It had been in the single digits, a couple of nights ago, and I think the cold I soaked in then has been seeping out of me since. It was a good night for a pot pie for dinner.

I had been building up to this pie, a tofu pot pie. I have wanted to make one for several days now. I even bought some tofu, a different variety than I usually use, you know, to mix things up a bit, and that has been waiting in the fridge for this very pie. Yesterday morning, after the aforementioned cold snap, I ran in the morning. I think it got up to twelve degrees by the time I got home. I was warm enough but a bit chilled. If you run, or do anything outside in the cold, you know what I’m talking about. So tonight, since I could be home early enough, I made the dang pie.

I have written about this pie before, so if you want the recipe (don’t be lazy just bake it already) you can find it here.  It involves a big mess in the kitchen, several bowls, a small kitchen appliance and plenty of dishes to wash. And it takes a while to prep. But, I can tell you, this bad boy is a savory winter night delight. Tickles the tongue with tastiness and fills you right up.

Tomorrow morning I will run again. Maybe there will be some light snow. Temperatures will be in the twenties. Typical winter morning (finally! It has been way too warm this winter) for a typical frozen dirt road run. There is the possibility that I will think about dinner again on that run. I may think about what other comfort food will do me right a couple chilly evenings hence. I may hatch a plan to acquire ingredients and hammer out some more yumminess.

My son was pretty keen on having some ice cream at some point after dinner (my wife bought four pints, unable to resist an admittedly great sale). I made a face at that idea. I was too full. That was quite a while ago now. Even now, ice cream seems like a bad idea. Too much pie. Although, I really do like ice cream. Maybe we can just have ice cream for dinner tomorrow night.

(If you have some ideas for dinner, let me know. It is easy to get stuck in the same cycle of meals. I am looking for hearty no-meat dinners with quality ingredients and some gustatory pow).

Your Typical July 4th Parade

Went to the parade on Friday. 11:00. It passed through town and ended down by the post office. It had your usual ingredients:

Floats

Floats (plus fun hats)

Firetrucks

Firetrucks

Tractors

Tractors (the pink tractor that usually appeared did not appear–bummer)

Horses

Horses

Plus a 1952 Citroen--now that's patriotic!

Plus a 1952 Citroen–now that’s patriotic! Maybe we should have a parade on July 14th with this puppy in the lead.

We stuck around town for some free ice cream offered by a local church (You’ll love our other Sundays too!) and watched some kids get wet in the dunk tank. It wasn’t hot. I could have used a sweatshirt. The dunk tank did look fun, however.

At days end we watched the fireworks from our porch. A few of them of them were a little hidden by the hill, but behind the screen we had no mosquitoes. The highlight was one burst that spread out into a huge smiley face. We ended the day happy, all independent and stuff. Hope you had a happy Fourth yourself.

 

 

Busy Kitchen Today

Ready to dress some pizza pies

My daughter is into making cupcakes lately. She got a cupcake cookbook for Christmas and has been busy crusting its pages with flour and eggs and confectionary sugar. She wanted to make some chocolate cupcakes today but did not want all of them to be chocolate. She was making half a batch (I mean, we can only eat so many cupcakes) so had to halve the ingredients to start with. Then she split the batter and planned to add cocoa to one half. She had to halve twice to figure out how much cocoa to add. It was a good math problem. And what a mess.

That got cleaned up. No problem. The kids have friends over for the night so we made homemade pizza for dinner. I spent some time slicing and sautéing and grating toppings so everyone could make their personal pie. I made the dough, even though we did not have enough flour when I started. I didn’t know we were short on flour but I found out soon enough. My wife was out and so eventually brought more, but the dough sat for a while before I could finish it off. It was quite the sponge.

Making individual pizzas takes lots of counter space. It was a respectable mess to attend to, but I cleaned up most of it before dinner and the rest after those pizzas were consumed. Dishes done, pots washed, counter wiped down. We’re good. Then it was time to make breakfast.

As a treat for the weekend and the sleepovers, I figured I would make waffles. The problem with that is that I need to start the day before. I used to make your usual baking powder waffles but once I tried yeasted waffles there was no going back. You make them with yeast instead of baking powder, as you may have guessed, which means they need to rise. Of course, if I let them rise on the counter I would have to get up a 3:00 am. Not happening. So I whipped up the batter and stashed it in the refrigerator. Slow rise, ready for breakfast.

This, of course, was one more mess to clean up, which I accomplished with a rosy attitude. I like a clean kitchen. I think I’ve got all the loose kitchen accoutrements and plates and spatulas washed at this point. I was thinking I might have a little ice cream. But that would mean another bowl to clean. Nah. Who needs ice cream anyway?

Creemee Musings

I painted the house for a while today and when I took a break for lunch was offered the idea of heading to the creemee stand for a cone. I did not want to disappoint my children, who have not had the pleasure of my company for such a foray for several weeks. I could not refuse. So after lunch, and a quick pop outside to scrape just a little more, we hopped in the family rig for a treat.

I chose to get something different, something unusual, something I have not had, as I mentioned to my wife when it emerged from the window, since I was about nine years old–a small vanilla swirled frozen soft ice cream delight. I never get vanilla, unless it is accompanied by its partner chocolate. I also mentioned to this same wife of mine that the last time I had a vanilla cone I did not refer to it as a “creemee.”  I just called it soft serve ice cream. So we discussed my transition, when I moved to Vermont, from “soft serve” to “creemee” as one worth making and full of portent for our once blossoming relationship.

The vanilla was, indeed, tasty. It was hardly plain for me, as it so rarely visits my palate, so I enjoyed it with gusto. My daughter had respberry. My son had maple. My wife had none, having succumbed to the urge to eat ice cream at home earlier in the day. There are six choices at our local creemee stand–vanilla, chocolate, raspberry, maple, vanilla and chocolate swirled, and maple and raspberry swirled. The maple and raspberry combination would seem to be the least popular, but many people like it. My wife compared it to raspberry pancakes with maple syrup; a good comparison.

I considered that this latter combination might be the least popular creemee flavor, but I could only speculate, so I went to the window, where the perky teenage server had helped us earlier, and asked her “What is the least popular creemee flavor ordered?” She did not hesitate to tell me, “chocolate, hands down.” She continued, “I’m not sure why; chocolate is my favorite and is pretty much all I get.” She told me that the two-flavor mix in question is actually one of the most popular orders.  And plain vanilla is probably right up there, although she wasn’t counting or anything.

Maple is not a regular flavor for creemees, even in Vermont, but is all my son wants. He isn’t alone, despite that most maple creemees are not made with real maple syrup. The ones that are–whoo baby!–that is some fine gustatory enjoyment I tell you.

Whoda thunk chocolate would be the least popular flavor? People will eat anything if it involves chocolate–coffee beans, ants, gummi bears (I mean, come on people, gummi bears?), bacon. I guess I was more in the main stream with my vanilla cone than I would have thought. I know vanilla is popular, but I would have thought chocolate would have been more popular. I don’t know doodly. Apparently.

I did enjoy the vanilla cone. Next time, however, I’m getting chocolate, or at least vanilla and chocolate. Call me a maverick. You might as well, since you won’t be able to call me plain vanilla.

More Ice Cream

Made chocolate ice cream again this afternoon. Dang good stuff. I rushed it, however. My son wanted to help. His idea of “mix well” is a couple turns of the whisk. I knew I needed to mix and melt the chocolate more thoroughly, but I caved to his impatience. It has a few cocoa-ish bits floating in it. The upside is that they seem lit little cocoa nibs. High end confectionary.

I made waffles to start off the day. These were old fashioned yeasted waffles. I made the batter last night, popped it in the refrigerator, and this morning–easy waffles. And they are way better than the waffles I typically make with baking powder. Of course, they also have a lot more butter in them. OK, my usual recipe has no butter in it, but if it did, it wouldn’t have as much as these yeasted puppies. Can’t argue with butter, however. It makes everything taste good.

And salad–lots of salad today. My parents came to visit for the weekend. They stopped to pick up their CSA farm share right before they left, so they arrived with a cooler full of greens. We ate greens and salad with dinner. They have a full share and let me tell you that is WAY too much food for two people. Last year the farm did not produce so much. Greens out your ears.

Good food today. That happens in the summer, when I don’t have places to go all day. I like that. We will eat well again tomorrow. Bacon and eggs for breakfast. That isn’t typical fare in this mostly vegetarian household, but it’s Father’s Day. Bacon for dear old Dad.

So we seem to have a theme here–fat. Butter, cream, pork fat. In moderation, however. Everything in moderation. We didn’t eat all the waffles. The ice cream is in the freezer. Bacon? Can’t imagine all that will get eaten. We will have to make sure to snack on more greens tomorrow. All that lettuce needs to get gone.

Another Batch of Ice Cream

Recently my wife has been craving chocolate ice cream. One day last week she went to four stores in search of Ben and Jerry’s chocolate ice cream. Chocolate ice cream is pretty much found anywhere one might find ice cream but we like to eat locally. Truth: Ben and Jerry’s is hard to beat. Chocolate ice cream is one thing. Good chocolate ice cream is another.

So I decided to make some good chocolate ice cream. After some delicious trial and error I think I’ve got it. Not too rich, not too meak. Plenty of creaminess and just sweet enough.

Here is the recipe for one quart wicked good chocolate ice cream:

Melt 1 ounce unsweetened baking chocolate in a double boiler or in a sauce pan over low heat.

Stir in 1/4 cup baking chocolate. It will get clumpy but have no fear.

Stir in 1/2 cup skim milk and 1 cup cream, a little a time. Whisk until smooth. Let cool.

In a bowl, whisk two eggs until light and fluffy, a couple of minutes. Add 3/4 cup sugar, a little at a time, until blended. Whisk in 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 cup cream.

Mix all the ingredients together until well blended. Let cool for at least one hour in a refrigerator. Use an ice cream maker to turn it into ice cream.

Try not to eat it all once.

Next up: mint chocolate ice cream made with fresh mint. I’m salivating already.