Post 11 – Wooster Local Eats

After a lovely breakfast and conversation with Fong at the Black Squirrel Inn, we continued on to a productive day of wedding venue browsing and delicious eats! For lunch, we enjoyed a lovely meal at Local Roots, a farmers’ market and café. The market sells good quality, local foods that you can either enjoy in their café or take home to cook. They sell a variety of produce and meats from local farms, clearly labeled with where it comes from and, in some cases, information about the farms. At the back, they have a café with wonderful sandwiches and salads (A+ on their Harvest Vegetable and Chicken Parmesan Paninis with homemade corn chips!) They also sell homemade baked goods, jams, teas, granolas, AND they have a little wing off the shop where they sell handmade products like knitted items and pottery. Oh, and how could I forget the mini demo kitchen where they teach a 6-week series of healthy cooking courses to community members for a mere $15 per class! We were there the day of their last class, but we didn’t go back that night to check it out. I was quite pleased to find such a gem in Wooster (thanks for the recommendation, Fong!)

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Our breakfast the last morning at the Inn was a wonderful variation of Fong’s style (Fong-ified as she told us her son calls it) from the previous morning (and this time I had the sense to take pictures!) We began with a pink smoothie topped whimsically with a maraschino cherry (some sort of strawberry, raspberry, pineapple combination?) and moved directly to dessert! Well, the dessert of breakfast anyway – baked pumpkin donuts, drizzled with dark chocolate glaze. IMG_2151

Our meal concluded with what I want to call an egg roll, though in the most literal sense of the word – it was an egg/omelet-like dish rolled up like a spiral with green peas and cheddar cheese to brighten its center. Fong accented the egg with two triangles of sourdough toast and a sprinkling of fennel pork sausage.  We shared our meal with the parents of a prospective student and a professor from Calcutta whose son is a freshman at Wooster. We were able to reminisce about our good old days at The College, while sharing our experiences with the eager parents and assuring them that Wooster got us to where we are today.

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We continued our delicious food escapades at Spoon Market for lunch. This charming store offers baked goods, sandwiches, soups, salads, and doubles as a specialty food store. They offer a limited selection of ethnic foods as well as wines and beers. At the very back of this long store they even have a butcher counter selling good quality (local?) meats. We each ordered a sandwich (named after movies – The Odd Couple & The Hangover), which came with a nice garlic-dill pickle and the option of kale chips or potato chips. Though I wasn’t impressed by my sandwich (I think it was mainly the combination of sweet ham and too sweet cranberry sauce that turned me off) the bread was delicious and I would gladly go back to check out their other options.

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We continued our trip by returning to Boston by way of D.C. Of course we had some tasty eats there too. Stay tuned for my next post featuring a tasty cookie recipe!

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Post 10 – The Black Squirrel Inn

“Food is a new religion,” she said.

We had just finished licking the last of the cranberry scone crumbs from our fingers, our bellies full and happy from a generous breakfast. I had never heard anyone put it that way before, but the more I thought about what Fong said, I agreed.

Food is a new religion.

At the Black Squirrel Inn, breakfast was at 8:30, with rumors of homemade scones. I expected something along the lines of scrambled eggs and fresh fruit, but was delightfully surprised by the three-course meal prepared by Fong, the Inn’s owner. The first morning we wandered downstairs on time. Fong greeted us with an offer of coffee and tea as we sat down, with our first course already laid out before us: vanilla yogurt scattered with mango, pistachios, and granola. My favorite breakfast! (Well not that combination exactly, but I do love granola, yogurt, and fruit and nuts of some kind.) I was comforted by seeing the familiar bowl of smooth and crunchy, yet excited by the different flavors of this other version. Halfway through our yogurt bowls, Fong brought us each a warm cranberry scone with a dab of butter perched on top. I savored it slowly, happy and satisfied with ending our breakfast there. When our bowls were scraped clean, Fong brought us the final course: a triangle of polenta topped with a poached egg, two asparagus spears, and a bright red tomato purée. We cleaned our plates and patted our bellies, and I felt full with more than the satisfaction of getting enough to eat as we shared our appreciation and conversation with Fong.

Food is a new religion. Food brings people together.

The trends of “foodie,” food studies, culinary tourism, and all the other buzz words of our food realm have turned many of us into faithful food followers, different from the everyday eating experience. Food has a creed, though perhaps not a god. People believe in local, organic, sprouted, all-natural, wheat free, egg free, dairy free, vegan, non-GMO, no high fructose corn syrup (you get the idea). We have lists of what to buy and what not to buy, where to shop and what companies we support, what super foods to eat and what favorite comfort food to eschew. It is new restaurants, food-trucks, underground pop-ups, friends’ dining rooms, and roof-top gatherings that are our sanctuaries and it is the literal communion of friends and loved ones around and across the table that saves us and connects us to a larger meaning.

“Food brings people together.”

Fong repeated the oft-heard phrase that has echoed throughout my food studies and even though I already knew it, I believed it even more. Here we were, strangers sharing the details of our lives, inspired by food put before us. We were becoming friends because of our belief and passion for sharing food and connecting through food. We were ascribing to the food lovers’ creed.

Post 9 – Letting Go

This week I have been teaching a cooking camp to middle schoolers at the school where I work (we’re on spring break.) On Monday, I went in all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and by the end of the day, I was plum tuckered out. This is the part of the story where I give mad respect to teachers – for your patience, your time spent lesson planning, and your energy that gets you through teaching all day – I salute you! I don’t know how you do it full time!

It’s been a learning experience for sure, but an enjoyable one. I have learned that I am very controlling when it comes to the kitchen. (Ha! Is anyone surprised?  I can picture my sister, Chelsea, reading this and yelling: “NOT SURPRISED! YOU NEVER LET ME IN THE KITCHEN!” Sorry, Chels). These kids want to touch everything and stir everything and measure everything and stick their fingers in every gooey, sticky, sugary, little dollop of food, and I want to say Did you wash your hands before you stuck them in there?! But I am learning to let go. I am learning to let them do the mixing and stirring and chopping, even if it doesn’t come out perfectly.

Nonetheless, we have had many successes in the kitchen this week and I am so very pleased with my little chefs. They have a lot of crazy energy (why did I think of middle schoolers as mature before this camp??), but they are passionate and good kids and I enjoy teaching them the wonders of the kitchen.

So far this week we have made:

Homemade pizza (dough and all!)

Crème brulee (well, we brulee-d one before the torch died on me)

Chicken Pot pie (no canned soups involved)

Homemade Pop-tarts

Tres Leches Cake

Tacos

Chips & Salsa

Tomorrow we’re making some good old all-American food – homemade ice cream, chocolate chip cookies, chicken tenders, and oven baked fries.

If you’re looking for something to make for a snack or to make with some goofy kids, I’d highly recommend making some Homemade Pop Tarts. Though when you make them remember to let go a little – don’t worry if they are square and neat. Let the spirit move you to create whatever weird shapes the rolling pin rolls and I promise you that it will taste just as good. In fact if you throw the word rustic in front of anything, it can be as misshapen as you want! So here you go – a recipe for “rustic” Pop Tarts.

Rustic Homemade Pop Tarts

Homemade Pop Tarts

 Homemade “Rustic” Pop Tarts

Pastry Crust

2 cups all purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

3/4 tsp. Kosher salt

2+1/2 ounces shortening, approx. 6 T.

3/4 cup milk

1 egg mixed with 1 to 2 tsp. water (egg wash)

Filling such as jam or cinnamon apples (see recipes below)

In a bowl mix flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the shortening and knead it into the flour with your hands until it is crumbly. Add milk all at once and mix with a spatula until it comes together.

Lightly flour your hands and the countertop and turn the dough out onto the countertop. Knead the dough ball about 10 – 20 times.

Roll the dough out to less than 1/8 inch thick and cut into 4 inch by 5 inch rectangles.

Place 1 to 2 tablespoons of your choice of filling onto the center of one piece of dough. Brush the edges with egg wash and top with the second piece of dough.

Seal edges by pressing with the tines of a fork. Gently press down to flatten and evenly distribute the filling and cut slits in the top of the pie.

Bake for 20 minutes at 350 F. Remove from oven and cool completely.

The pies will not brown until toasted.

 

Apple Cinnamon Filling

3 large apples, peeled and diced

3 tsp. lemon juice

2 T. sugar

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

2 T. water

Peel and dice apples. In a small saucepan on the stove cook apples with lemon juice, sugar, and cinnamon, stirring every now and then. Cook on low until apples are soft, but still holding their shape, about 10 minutes. If the apples are not very juicy, add the water. Otherwise omit. Use to fill your favorite pie crust or just eat by itself!

Post 8 – Sugar Addiction Part I (The Basics)

I have been reading about sugar addiction lately. Yeah people are addicted to drugs and alcohol and porn (hey, did you know that? I just watched this cool TEDx talk about it), but most people don’t talk about or hear about addiction to sugar. Have you?

Hi my name is Erin and I am addicted to sugar. <Applause of acceptance>

Okay, okay so I’m not grossly overweight, obese, or anything, BUT that does not mean that I only eat healthy foods and avoid sugar. Au contraire, mon frère. I eat it a lot.

When I’ve read about sugar addiction before (CSPI Nutrition Action Newsletter had a great article on it in May 2012) researchers basically have said that an addict has lower levels of dopamine receptors in the rewards center of the brain. Dopamine is what gives us the good feelings that we receive from eating certain foods, feeling loved, or being happy. Because an addict’s brain has lower levels of dopamine, it takes more of (fill in the blank) for him/her to reach that “high” that a normal person would feel from a smaller dose. A sugar addict can’t stop at one cupcake, but continues eating more to get that high that she didn’t get from the first, just as an alcoholic develops a tolerance for alcohol that requires more and more drinks to feel good.

In my life, my relationship with sugar goes in stages. I love to bake so I always have sweets at home. With no one to eat them but Sam and me (the cats don’t count), I end up eating more than my fair share. Some days I find myself hovering over the pan of brownies, cutting off slivers and popping them in my mouth or sitting down and getting up moments later for more. There are also the days like the past few where I have been relatively busy and though I have small moments of craving something sweet, it goes away quickly without my having to satisfy it. What gives? Am I like the alcoholic who can go for weeks without a drink only to fall off the wagon one day and start the cycle all over? Or am I just a girl, with multiple sweet teeth trying to fill a hole that being with a loved one could fill when I’m alone for a few hours?

Last week I made a new recipe – cinnamon roll biscuits – and it didn’t turn out the way I wanted. Yet because I had a whole pan of them and they looked good and I hate throwing out food, I ate them, one little unwinding of biscuit roll at a time, until I decided they were not worth eating and that I should stop. To save myself (sort of) I turned the leftovers into bread pudding and took it to work. Problem solved!  Cinnamon rolls recycled into something delicious and the burden of sugar-eating shared! No no, not so fast.

The two pieces that remained at home (because they didn’t fit in the tupperware – take another tupperware damnit and don’t leave that stuff lying around!) tested me again when I returned home from work, hungry for a snack as usual. I dug into one piece, bite by bite, knowing that I should stop, but unable to put my fork down.

So what do I do?

<Shrug>

This. Write. Share.

So, thank you for bearing with me in this strange confession. Thank you for taking me seriously. My next step is unknown. I have figured out this much about myself – when I am spending time with people that I love, doing things that make me happy, I am less likely to worry about the food I am eating or how much of it I am getting. Is it the dopamine receptors (what little I have left of them) picking up on that touch of human kindness and friendship that is satisfying my appetite or is it distraction? Either way I welcome it.

I have no solutions yet, other than to become more mindful (add that to my everyday, already mile-long mental checklist) and to tell more people how I am with sugar and who I am. It is that support that calms my cravings so thank you for supporting me.

More to come.