The One Where the Cook Stays Home Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

This gorgeous sunflower field is on my commute!

This gorgeous sunflower field is on my commute!

Last weekend, four of my girlfriends were meeting up in Michigan for a book festival. It disappointed me that I wasn’t able to join them, so I tried to make the most of being home by celebrating the season in my own backyard!

Every month in Vermont has its jewels (well, maybe not January and February!), but September really stands out for me. The days are getting shorter, it’s dark when I get up in the morning and my evening walks sometimes end at dusk. And there is something about September’s light that is special; I can look at the reflection of the sunset on the mountain range that makes every little pine tree stand out, and then it is gone in the blink of an eye. The days and nights are getting cooler too, although you wouldn’t know it by Saturday’s record high of 85 degrees.

Photo7This time of year in Vermont you’ll run into harvest festivals, a celebration of the bountiful season with local farmers and vendors, and sometimes even suppers. This is one of my favorite times of year to cook because of the fall harvest, and while I’ve been cooking with the season, I didn’t have any special or new recipes to share (roasted beets, garlic mashed potatoes, and sautéed kale anyone?), but realized since I went to my coop’s harvest festival that I could share some of my favorite Vermont producers I buy on a regular basis for my far away readers! Many have stores, so check out their websites. If you are in Vermont, you can pop in for a visit and let me know if you liked them! And special thanks to The Eater of the House, who helped me out with the photographs, because I forgot my camera!

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Vermont Coffee Company
This is hands down the best coffee in the WORLD! Although I tend to be more of a tea girl these days (more on that later), if I do drink coffee, VCC’s dark roast is my choice. I’ve shared this coffee with many and a care package to a certain friend in Seattle isn’t complete without a bag of the dark roast. I sipped a sample of iced coffee sweetened with cream and maple syrup and I learned their method of making iced coffee that is a cold method rather than my method of making a pot then cooling it in the fridge. (They were out of pamphlets, otherwise I’d give you the secret!)

Photo2MapleBrook Farm
MapleBrook Farm’s specialty isn’t cheddar, it’s mozzarella. And now they are selling handmade burrata. Burrata was the “it” cheese a couple of years ago and I tasted it for the first time in New York City and since then I’ve been obsessed with it, but have avoided it since I know I’d eat the whole thing in one sitting. Burrata is a fresh mozzarella cheese, the outer shell is mozzarella, while the inside is both mozzarella and cream. MapleBrook’s samples served the cheese with a tiny basil leaf, a halved baby tomato, and a drop of balsamic vinegar and were an incredible taste treat. What I really wanted to do was eat the entire platter, but I was polite and stuck with just one. I now know what to make next time I’m searching for a special appetizer!

Photo3Red Hen Baking Company
I don’t buy bread that often, but when I do Red Hen is one of just two Vermont breads that I will buy. I almost always pick up a loaf of their seeded baguette on the weekend and serve it with olive oil and fresh garlic or just with some good cheese or local butter. (The above burrata would be incredible!) And their bread ingredients are what should make up a bread recipe: flour, yeast, water, and salt with no other additives.

Photo4Stone Leaf Teahouse
Like I said above, I drink mostly tea these days, usually flavored green tea or as a special treat, my favorite Yorkshire Gold. I always think of tea as an English beverage, so I have a lot to learn about Asian teas. And a visit to Stone Leaf Teahouse is a great place to do that. I had a sample of a dark Asian tea and some Chai, which was SO good!

Photo5Butterworks Farm
I have been eating Butterworks Farm’s yogurt for as long as I can remember, so I had a great discussion about their products, where they have been and where they are going. The oldest organic farm in the state, it produces yogurt and other dairy products and has now expanded and sells whole wheat flour, cornmeal, wheat berries, and dried black beans. And I learned something new! Apparently Jersey cows give higher protein milk, so their yogurt has a higher protein content than some others. I had no idea that different cows produced different levels of protein in their milk. And while I’m full-fat dairy all the way, they also produce low and non-fat yogurts, which allows them to skim off the fat for their cream.

Photo6Sunrise Orchards
My tiny town has its own orchard that I frequent in the fall, but it closes right before Thanksgiving, so winter fruit, besides citrus, is at a minimum for me. But I am able to get apples at the coop from Sunrise Orchards well into spring! Their Empire apples, a hardier variety, which I eat in the winter, are kept in a special climate controlled fridge that eliminates moisture, so the apples are kept fresh all winter long. I always wondered why their apples were fresher than if I kept them in my own fridge!

The weekend ended at a lovely local restaurant for a special evening of dinner, dancing, and watching the sun set behind the Adirondacks. Not bad to spend a weekend at home!

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IMG_2841MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Ruth is Back in the Kitchen!
Last week, I lamented the fact that Mark Bittman is no longer writing for the New York Times. But this week I’m happy again, because my other favorite food writer, Ruth Reichl, has a new cookbook coming out!

The former editor of Gourmet magazine, the rug was pulled out from under Reichl in 2009 when the magazine shut its doors quickly and swiftly with no advance warning. So Reichl did what many of us cooks do, she retreated to the kitchen and cooked. My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes that Changed my Life, which is released on September 29, focuses on those recipes she made during that year of recovery, step by step, month by month.

If you’ve ever read any of Reichl’s writing, be it her memoirs, articles in Gourmet, or even her tweets, you know you are going to be in for a treat when you sit down with this book and I can’t wait. The New York Times had a great profile on her and the writing for the cookbook last week. You can read it by clicking here.

Tis the Season for Light Eating: Chicken and Rice Soup with Lemon and Ginger

Good Wednesday morning! How did you fare over the holiday? Were you hit by the snowstorm? It arrived for us mid-day Wednesday, but cleared out by Thursday morning. For the first time in many years, I think I can say my big dinner went off without a hitch—and I didn’t even draw up a timeline! Granted, the turkey was done about 45 minutes than I planned and I left the rolls in too long, but everything was delicious with leftovers kept at a minimum. And I’ve boiled up the turkey carcass for some soup later on this winter!

So now that our bellies are filled to the rim and it’s December, which means lots of sweets and out of the ordinary eating, I try as much as I can to have light meals throughout the day. Sugar and sweets are terrible for my waistline as well as my psyche, so I try to make healthy and delicious meals that aren’t fussy. This soup, which I made for lunches, was perfect. With accents of lemon and ginger, to me, this was a souped up (pardon the pun!) version of miso soup you get in Japanese restaurants.  While it is light yet filling, you don’t go away feeling like you ate a heavy meal.

For substitutions, I poached a chicken breast instead of using the rotisserie chicken and I cooked up the brown rice instead of the instant and made a pilaf of the leftovers. But their suggestions are excellent quick replacements if time is lacking. This was so delicious, it has become my new favorite soup! And for those gluten-intolerant, just use tamari instead of soy sauce!

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Chicken and Rice Soup with Lemon and Ginger

This recipe originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Serves 6 (serving size: 1 1/2 cups)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 tablespoons finely minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon white miso
1 (8-ounce) package presliced cremini mushrooms
4 1/2 cups unsalted chicken stock
1 1/2 cups shredded skinless rotisserie chicken breast
3 cups chopped bok choy
1 (8.5-ounce) pouch precooked brown rice
1 tablespoon lower-sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, ginger, and miso; sauté 4 minutes. Add mushrooms; sauté 2 minutes. Add stock, chicken, and bok choy; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 8 minutes.

While soup simmers, prepare rice according to package directions. Stir rice, soy sauce, salt, and pepper into soup; cook 4 minutes or until bok choy is tender. Remove from heat; stir in lemon rind and juice.

england's flagMVK Eats London!

Hopefully no one noticed I was gone for a few weeks as The Eater of the House and I took the trip of a lifetime to London! Our good friends, Jen and Bill, had given an open invitation to visit them for two years and we finally took them up on their offer! November is always dark, overcast, and cold in Vermont, so it was a great time to travel, plus the weather was perfect, upper 50s, and I definitely didn’t need the winter coat I chose to bring!

Look at those doughnuts! Despite all my walking, I resisted!

Look at those doughnuts! Despite all my walking, I resisted!

London is a city for walkers, so you don’t need to worry about calories and how much you’re eating, as I averaged about ten miles every day! Our first real walk took us to Portobello Road and Notting Hill, where we walked along, checking out the stands and looking at all the food. Vegetables, bread, jams, doughnuts, you name it, they had it!

Gorgeous vegetables.

Gorgeous vegetables. I wish I could have taken some of those parsnips home with me!

All that walking made us hungry and instead of choosing to wait close to an hour at an Italian restaurant we selected, we instead walked across the street to the Spanish tapas restaurant Galicia. At first, we weren’t sure if they were open, the lights in the upstairs dining room were off and there was only a smattering of men at the downstairs bar. But they took us up, turned on the lights, and we had the most incredible lunch I think I’ve ever eaten. We selected nine dishes to share, and there almost wasn’t enough room on the table for the food and our plates. Mussels, sausages, jambon, meatballs, octopus, chicken, shrimp, avocado, everything was cooked to perfection and was so delicious with no room for dessert. Before lunch, Jen took me to the bookstore, Books for Cooks, which was an entire bookstore devoted to cookbooks and books about cooking! My kind of heaven!

Tapas lunch!

Tapas lunch!

 

 

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From the top of Primrose Hill.

Since Jen and Bill have lived in England for two years, I’ve heard about Sunday roast. I always do some sort of roast in my house on Sundays, albeit for dinner not lunch, but this was an authentic meal I wanted to experience. After a long walk from home to Abbey Road then Primrose Hill (where you can get the most gorgeous view of the city as you can see above), we took a short cab ride to Hampstead. This was a favorite part of the city for me that I would love to revisit. A small town, at the top of a windy and hilly neighborhood street was The Holly Bush, which is about as traditional an English restaurant as you can find. As luck would have it, they were able to seat our party immediately as we were all famished from all the walking.

london4If there is roast chicken on a menu, you can guarantee I will order it, but when in England, I was going to eat like the natives, so I selected the beef with Yorkshire pudding. I like my beef really rare and the piece I was given was perfection and just the right size. Small potatoes accompanied along with a big puffy Yorkshire pudding, which for those who don’t know what it is, is a popover, not what we know as “pudding.” And speaking of pudding, since we weren’t stuffed following dinner, we ordered traditional Sticky Toffee Pudding for dessert. Again, not what we know as “pudding” in our country, I would say this was similar to steamed bread, topped with a little bit of ice cream. And it truly was delicious! (We also discovered that the British word for rutabaga is “swede” and that the actor, Timothy Dalton (aka James Bond), was sitting behind us during our meal!)

london6Of all the meals I ate in London, if I were to recreate one at home, this would be it. Potatoes aren’t my usual favorite, but these seemed to be boiled then roasted; so the outside was crunchy but the inside perfectly creamy. The meat, which I think was grass-fed and probably local, was perfectly cooked to my preference, spices just right, with a little bit of horseradish and gravy on the side. The veg, served family style in a bowl, was a combination of root vegetables, carrots, turnips, rutabaga, all my favorites. I left that meal incredibly happy and perfectly satisfied.

Next week, I’ll bring you two or three more memorable London meals!

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Weeknight Dinner Series #7! New Food Labels! A Cookbook Giveaway!

There is a lot of excitement this week! March 7th marks the third-year birthday of My Vermont Kitchen; I’ve made it through my infancy and the terrible twos! It’s the first week in March, where a sigh of relief can be heard round the world that yes, the long, dark, and cold winter is slowly winding down. This month always has warm days and cold nights, the perfect recipe for maple sugaring. The chirp of the red-winged blackbird will be making its way to the meadow by St. Patrick’s Day. Plus we spring forward this weekend! I can feel the spring in my outside steps already!

So the news first. The United States Food and Drug Administration announced last week that food labels are getting an overhaul for the first time since the early 1990s. Taking the nutrition course I mentioned last week, one week was devoted to reading food labels, which was a real eye opener. The new label changes are meant to be easier for the average consumer to understand and will focus on calories and sugar content in particular. Hooray to this, as sugar content was not on the labels before because there was no set standard for sugar consumption. But given the obesity and diabetes epidemic in this country, I am pleased to see this addition. This article printed in the New York Times clearly explains the matter in more detail.

This week’s recipe: Chicken and Leeks. While it has a boring name, this is a simple weeknight supper that takes about 30 minutes to make and it’s a delicious and nutritious! Rarely do I make pan sauces, and I’m really not sure why, because they are fairly easy. You can always cook the leeks in the pan with the chicken, but in this case, I cooked them separately. And don’t be like me–watch the pan sauce! I reduced it a little too much, but it was still delicious! Serve along side with rice and a salad, or steamed broccoli with lemon and butter.
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Chicken and Leeks
Extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds of chicken tenders
1 cup chopped leeks
½ cup chicken broth
A glug or two of white wine (Optional. If not using, just use a little more broth.)
1 Tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Place enough olive oil in the bottom of a large skillet and warm. Add the chicken and cook until they are tender, turning frequently, so both sides are golden brown. When finished cooking, put on a plate and set aside.

2. As you are cooking the chicken, add 1 Tablespoon of butter to a small skillet. When it’s melted, add the leeks and cook until soft and a little brown.

3. Place the chicken skillet back on the burner and slowly add the chicken broth, scraping up the browned bits with a wooden spoon or spatula. Bring to a boil, add the wine if using, and reduce down until it is the consistency you like. Add the leeks and chicken to the pan, cover with the sauce and serve.

Free Cookbook Giveaway!

global kitchenAs a member of Cooking Light magazine’s Blogger’s Connection, I sometimes get a few perks and this time I get to pass something on to one lucky reader! Just this week Cooking Light’s Global Flavors will be in bookstores! And this cookbook is fantastic! Written by New York Times best-selling author and food writer David Joachim, you’ll find recipes from all over the world, but they’re easy to make and accessible for the home cook. You’ll find recipes from East Asia, India, Southeast Asia and Australia, the Middle East and Africa, Europe and Eurasia, South, North, and Central Americas. I sat down to breakfast the other morning and was salivating over all the dishes. I’m especially excited to make Chicken Tikka Masala, Indonesian Stir-Fried Noodles, and Hungarian Goulash (although there are tons more I’m going to try!)

The contest is easy! Just leave a comment with what your favorite global meal is, I’ll put all the names in a hat, and the Eater of the House will pull out a name. I’ll contact the lucky winner to get shipping instructions. Deadline is Tuesday, March 11 at midnight Eastern Time. Good luck!

My Vermont Kitchen Gets Out of the Kitchen! Plus a Christmas Cookie Recipe

Chris isn't in Vermont anymore!

Chris isn’t in Vermont anymore!

I mentioned right after Thanksgiving that the month of December was crazy, and that’s no lie. Between work during the week, the weekends have been devoted to traveling, so I’ve been getting out of the kitchen and having other people cook for me, which I admit has been quite the treat!

But before I get to my travels, I thought, since it tis the season, I’d bring you my favorite Christmas cookie recipe. Apologies in advance to my longtime readers, who see me haul this out every year, but to be honest, if I have time to make just one Christmas cookie (or eat one!) during the season, these are it. I can think of nothing better than butter, sugar, and walnuts. So for my new readers, this is my hands down favorite Christmas cookie. No need to pull out the cookie cutters and they are hardly fussy.

This is a family recipe that I think everyone in my family has made at one point or another in their cooking lifetime. The original recipe calls them Butter Fingers, but to be easy, we always formed them into little round balls, hence their “new” name. I recommend a nice cup of coffee or tea with a cookie or two. They are moist and yummy, and like all older recipes, the directions are sparse!

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Butterballs
14 Tablespoons butter, softened
4 Tablespoons confectioner sugar
2 cups flour
1 cup ground nuts (I usually use walnuts, but pecans are good, too)
2 teaspoons vanilla and 1 teaspoon water, mixed

Mix and shape with hands. Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. Watch to make sure they don’t get too brown. When cool, roll in confectioner sugar.

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A really bad hair day, but I'm very happy!

A really bad hair day, but I’m very happy!

Last weekend I took the bus down to New York to meet up with my friend, Jana, who lives in Seattle. Besides going to museums and walking through Central Park, we ate at some pretty spectacular places, most which might not make it on your radar, so I thought I’d give a little synopsis in case you find yourself in the Big Apple in the near future and are looking for something to eat!

(I’m sorry for the lack of photographs. I tried taking a photo at the first restaurant, it turned out terrible, so I decided to go without. But the pictures and flavors are in my mind and memory, I just wish you all could enjoy them!)

We started late Saturday afternoon by walking to East Harlem and we went to El Paso http://elpasony.com/ (1643 Lexington Avenue) for a late lunch. I was famished; I’d been on the road since 7 a.m., so my three tacos: chirizo, cecina [salted beef], and asada [grilled beef] were spectacular. Also incredible was the guacamole (probably the best I’ve ever had in a restaurant!) and house-made totopos (tortilla chips). Next time I could just order that and be very happy. I should have taken the traditional route and tried one of their specialty margaritas instead of my usual vodka martini. This was a  wonderful restaurant if you want authentic Mexican food, as my sister-in-law would say. The service was wonderful and the food incredibly delicious. What more could you want?

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I read that this year’s tree had FIVE miles of lights on it! I thought I might be disappointed, but I wasn’t, despite the crowds!

From here it was a train ride to Rockefeller Center to see the Christmas tree along with two million other people, and a walk down 5th Avenue. We decided to stop in at a lovely Italian restaurant, Mozzarella & Vino (33 West 54th Street). I decided to have a glass of Italian chardonnay, which was lovely. After sitting and chatting for quite some time, we decided we were hungry again and decided to have another bite to eat. Since mozzarella is half the name of the restaurant, they obviously focus on cheese, so we ordered a tasting platter of three different cheeses with some bread: mozzarella, burrata, and a smoked mozzarella. I’ve only read about burrata cheese in cooking magazines; the outer shell is solid mozzarella while the inside contains both mozzarella and cream; in other words, heaven. I am going to have to seek this out in Vermont. Yet again, I could have ordered and eaten this entire appetizer by myself and been perfectly content. Next time!

rtr-300x225Lots more walking and we were getting tired. Near Times Square and getting cold, we made our way to the subway. Walking past Carnegie Hall and lots of old New York landmarks, I was cold but excited to see these places in person. And then it was right in front of us: The Russian Tea Room (150th West 57th Street)! Almost my entire life I’ve heard about this restaurant, through books and movies. When my book club read Anna Karinina and I was hosting, I went to their website to see what they served so I could cook an authentic Russian meal. Even though they were closing in 30 minutes, we  had enough time to have a cocktail and nightcap at the bar. Stolichnaya martini for me (of course, I had to be authentic and it’s my vodka of choice!) and Irish Coffee for my friend. It would be exciting to be there on New Year’s Eve, but their $500 per person for the six-course meal is a bit cost prohibitive!

Sunday morning, dark and gray, but after a brisk walk through Central Park, we made our way to a nice coffee shop for breakfast. Apologies, I didn’t pay attention to the name, but the breakfast burrito was delicious and held me through a late morning and afternoon of museum walkings until a slice of New York veggie pizza late afternoon. Then dinner was mecca: Mario Batali’s Eataly (200 5th Avenue in the Flatiron neighborhood).

Like I said, bad photos, but this is what greeted us at our table.

Like I said, bad photos, but this is what greeted us at our table.

Mario isn’t my favorite celebrity chef, but he does have a connection with Italian cook Lidia Bastianch, so I was still excited. I’ve never been to a place like this; it’s a market, but also a sort of cafeteria. Over here is the antipasto section, the shellfish area, the fish area, the pizza and pasta area over here. So diners choose what and where they would like to eat. After walking all over Manhattan and two museums that day, we were pooped, so standing at the antipasto area was out of the question. We chose to take the elevator up 14 stories to eat at their brew pub, Birreria. We spent about 15 minutes trying to decide what I wanted to eat because everything looked delicious! And it was. We had a grilled portobello with whipped burrata (again!) with small raw beets and a house-made pork and beef sausage with braised red cabbage and speck. (This was the second time we saw speck on a menu, and I investigated what it was, because I had never heard of it before. Click on the hyperlink. Trust me, it’s delicious.) Our waiter was wonderful and I’m still trying to place who he reminds me of, although we confirmed our paths have never crossed, and it was a perfect ending to a perfect day.

Monday morning, with a few flakes of snow in the air, we decided to take a historic walk through Harlem, which was exciting and educational. But it was getting to be late morning, we hadn’t eaten and we were hungry. So our trusty guidebook took us to Amy Ruth’s, and I couldn’t have been more happy to be here for my last meal in the city. A traditional “soul food” restaurant, a description I sort of dislike, but this was it–and it was incredible. Each meal was named for a famous African American; I ordered the President Barack Obama (fried chicken with cheesy grits and collard greens) and Jana ordered the Rev. Al Sharpton (smothered chicken and waffles), with fresh, moist cornbread to start. For me, fried chicken will always be on the menu for my last supper; growing up my birthday dinner request always was fried chicken and chocolate cake. And with all due apologies to my dad, this fried chicken, eaten at 11:30 in the morning in Harlem, was the best fried chicken I’ve ever eaten.

The chicken was able to tide me over until Massachusetts. My bus driver surprised me by stopping at a store so us weary travelers could stop and pick up something to eat. Needless to say, the stale roast beef and cheddar sandwich was my least favorite meal of the weekend.

There are a million other restaurants in New York, I’d love to try them all, but to be honest, if I went back to these restaurants, I’d be happy as a clam!

No Time For Cookin’!

It has been absolutely gorgeous for the past two weeks! Nary a cloud in the sky, warm days, cool evenings lend themselves to long walks and late dinners. So needless to say I’ve been out of the kitchen and taking advantage of the beautiful weather! So enjoy these photos and I’ll be back next week with a new recipe, because of course, it’s springtime in Vermont, and the growing season is just beginning!

Off for a walk!

A blood-red trillium along the trail of Mount Abe.

A blood-red trillium along the trail of Mount Abe.

Green!

Green!

The Canada geese have returned!

The Canada geese have returned!

The light this year is incredible. I wondered what the heck was in the back seat of my car, but it's the reflection of the house in the window.

The light this year is incredible. I wondered what the heck was in the back seat of my car, but it’s the reflection of the house in the window.