Small-Town Food Festivals in October You Need to Visit

Autumn is almost here, and there’s nothing better than welcoming the new season by enjoying the cool, crisp fall air while sipping some warm apple cider with your loved ones. Getting to your favorite festival is as important as choosing which one to attend. Make travel reservations ahead of time so that you can soak up every minute of seasonal fun. With a variety of exciting contests, shows, and delicious food selections to choose from, each of the following October food festivals is guaranteed to be a hit.   

Milford Pumpkin Festival

Pumpkins are at the heart of autumn, and the Milford Pumpkin Festivalwhich takes place in Milford, New Hampshire, from October 11th to 13thpromises to illuminate the night with the Town Hall pumpkin-lighting ceremony and other festive events. If you’re flying, Manchester-Boston airport is the closest to the festival just 18 miles away. 

Apple Scrapple Festival

The Apple Scrapple Festival on October 11th and 12th in Bridgeville, Delaware, is a great event for the whole family, whether you’re local or planning to travel there. For those planning to fly, the closest airport to Bridgeville is the Salisbury-Ocean City Wicomico Regional Airport that is only 33 miles away, so get your car rental reservations ready to arrive at the festival in comfort and style. If you’re going to have more than one driver, remember that adding additional drivers to a rental car costs more, with some exceptions

Buffalo Wallow Chili Cook-Off

Get ready to sample a wide variety of some of the tastiest homemade chili in the country at the Buffalo Wallow Chili Cook-Off in Custer, South Dakota. A rip-roaring good time is what you’ll get as seasoned cooks compete for top chili-cook honors. The chili is worth traveling the distance, with the closest airport 49 miles away at the Rapid City Regional Airport. 

Taste of Brunswick Festival

If you’re in the neighborhood or just up for an adventure, the Taste of Brunswick Festival in Alberta, Virginia, on October 12th, is an autumn delight. You’ll thoroughly enjoy your time tasting delectable stews in the annual stew-master cook-off, going on a hayride, and enjoying a variety of fun activities and events. If you’re flying in for the festival, the closest airport to Alberta is the Richmond International Airport, which is 65 miles away.

Festivals are the perfect autumn events for getting you into the cozy vibe of the season, and no matter which festival strikes your fancy, you’ll have a great time.

If you are looking for some seasonal fall food that you can enjoy at home, try this recipe for Sweet & Smoky Butternut Squash, Apple, and Carrot Soup.

Fish: The Benefits and Possible Risks

Increasing your fish intake is good for your heart and can reduce your risk of cancer. However, some fish can contain high levels of toxins. If the fish that you like to eat enjoys dining on other fish, their flesh will have a higher toxin load by the time it gets to your plate. Fatty fish and predators are the fish that have the highest risk of transferring toxins to you. These are a few tips to make sure that you’re getting the healthiest portion of fish.

Health Benefits

The primary health benefit of eating fish a few times a week, especially in place of red meat or fowl, is that it increases your intake of omega-3 fatty acids. This can reduce your risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. A diet that contains regular intake of fish can also lower your risk of cancer and of developing Alzheimer’s. Fish is also an excellent source of low-fat protein and can even help you recover after a hard workout. Many women who suffer from severe cramps or PMS find that increasing their intake of healthy fish lessens their symptoms.

The Risks

While fish are known for mercury contamination, it’s important to consider the food chain when deciding what fish to eat. While fish is the most significant food source of mercury, a diet high in shark meat contains a lot more toxins than a diet high in salmon. Toxins build up in the tissues of predatory fish, which are fish who feast on other fish. Stay low on the food chain, and focus on shrimp, scallops and other mollusks, haddock, and trout.

Good Fish vs. Bad Fish

To limit your exposure to these toxins, carefully monitor what fish you consume. If you keep canned tuna in your cupboard, make sure you eat more canned light than canned albacore tuna. In fact, testing indicates that albacore tuna contains more than twice the amount of this toxin found in light canned tuna. You can safely eat two to three servings a week of salmon. While wild salmon has a slightly lower mercury count than farmed salmon, both types of harvesting show low levels of this toxin. Many diners find that wild-caught salmon simply tastes better. If you don’t like the smell of fish in your house after cooking, try using farm-raised salmon.

A diet high in fish is generally a healthy choice, but your geographic location may make it difficult for you to purchase healthy fresh fish. Flash-frozen fish is often a more cost-effective option if you live in a land-locked region. While nothing that you do to a piece of fish in the preparation stage can reduce the amount of mercury in it, you can improve the flavor and texture of frozen fish by thawing it gently in a bowl of cold water over the course of the day. This will keep the flesh tender as it thaws. Then you can prepare it as you would any fresh piece of fish.

Here’s another article we think you’ll enjoy: Top 3 Seafood Restaurants in Alabama

Supper Time in Dixie: Southern Food You Have to Try in Alabama

The South is known for comfort food, and Alabama is no exception. The state has many restaurants that focus on cooking classic Southern dishes, like fried chicken, cheese grits, cornbread, and cobblers. There are also plenty of places to visit if you want an innovative take on Southern cuisine. The following information can help you enjoy the culinary offerings while visiting the state of Alabama.

Alabama Culture

Culture and food are closely linked in Alabama. Many recipes for regional classics have been passed down through the generations. Most popular Alabama dishes are made up of simple ingredients, like fresh vegetables, locally caught seafood, and homemade bread. This stems from times in Alabama’s history when funds for buying lots of ingredients were scarce. People had to become creative about making simpler food with fewer ingredients. The unique part about food in this state is the cooking process, which was brought in from the first immigrants to the area. Over the years, techniques and ingredients have changed very little, which leaves Alabama with a strong food-related heritage.

Southern Style Food

You’ll never look far for a delicious meal because Alabama is particularly  known for its Southern cuisine. Some of the revered local dishes include fried chicken, okra, and mashed potatoes with gravy. Many restaurants in Alabama serve classic Southern dishes with their own twist to give diners a unique culinary experience. Comfort foods like macaroni and cheese, collard greens, fried seafood, and cornbread are also common in many of the state’s restaurants. You can often find different versions from each chef who prepares these well-known foods.

Restaurants to Check Out

The state of Alabama has many wonderful restaurants where you can try traditional Southern food or modern takes on these well-known dishes. If you find yourself in the Birmingham area, you may want to visit Highlands Bar and Grill or Hot and Hot Fish Club, both of which create modern dishes with a Southern flair. The Gulf Coast is full of amazing seafood restaurants, like Fisher’s in Orange Beach. No trip to Northern Alabama would be complete without a visit to Simp McGhee’s in Decatur and Cotton Row in Hunstville.

 

One of the best things about visiting Alabama is sampling some of the dishes the area is known for. Southern cuisine is often known for foods that are cooked low and slow to increase the flavor. But there are also many restaurants in Alabama that take the state’s culture into consideration while putting a modern spin on those classic dishes.

When the logs are for eating not building in the Overstory

The OverstoryWas a busy few weeks as they tend to be at this time of the year. One of the highlights was BookClub. This month’s read was The Overstory and the intersection of nature, trees, logs, and people.

Two of the several quotes I liked from the book included;

The bends in the alders speak of long-ago disasters. Spikes of pale chinquapin flowers shake down their pollen; soon they will turn into spiny fruits. Poplars repeat the wind’s gossip. Persimmons and walnuts set out their bribes and rowans their blood-red clusters Ancients oaks wave prophecies of future weather. The several hundred kinds of hawthorn laugh at the single name they’re forced to share. Laurels insist that even death is nothing to lose sleep over.”

”No one sees trees. We see fruit, we see nuts, we see wood, we see shade. We see ornaments or pretty fall foliage. Obstacles blocking the road or wrecking the ski slope. Dark, threatening places that must be cleared. We see branches about to crush our roof. We see a cash crop. But trees—trees are invisible.”

As per the usual – I wanted to come up with some interesting to food to go with the stories. One dessert I have never tried was a Buche de Noel. Now mostly I haven’t ever attempted it is because they traditionally have hazelnuts so never ate one. But I have been somewhat nervous about attempting a “jelly roll” or “swiss roll” type cake in any of the many forms.

But as I tend to do – I jumped in by attempting two variations on a “log theme”. 

The first was a traditional carrot cake log with cream cheese frosting and meringue mushrooms. My first challenge was to figure out the frosting – I didn’t want to use chocolate frosting -but I did want some shade of brown of the “bark”. That meant going back to my color charts. 1 part red, 10 parts yellow and a few dashes of blue made the brown. I use gel food coloring in the traditional cream cheese frosting along with some vanilla and honey to keep the liquids minimal. The recipe for the carrot cake roll can be found here

Next up.. savory style!

With the savory version “log” I came across a flourless recipe that looked like it wouldn’t work, but it did. I loved all the flavors, and confident in the knowledge that I had the sweet version as a backup, I went for it.

I found a recipe online for a flourless, sweet potato and chive log with savory cream cheese, tomato and herb filling covered in cream cheese and spicey eggplant pesto frosting.  The formal recipe for this can be found here.

The version I have below is my adapted version of the one they started with.

Note: they used metric measurements so I have converted them to US measurements.

For the “dirt” I just used ground nuts and rosemary for the savory one and ground graham crackers for the sweet version.

I also whipped up some meringue mushrooms the night before. But make sure to store them in an airtight container to keep them hard.

What you will need:

  • 16 oz (450 g) of cubed sweet potatoes
  • 4 large eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 pinch ground clove
  • 1/2 pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp of ground ginger
  • 3 oz of white sharp white shredded cheddar (this is more than the original recipe)
  • 21 oz  (250 g) full fat cream cheese (3 bricks)  (room temperature)
  • 1 bunch fresh chives (about 2 tablespoons chopped, fresh)
  • 1 jar of tomato pesto ( but any savory spread will do – I couldn’t find the red onion marmalade, so I went with a jar of Tomato Pesto)
  • 1 jar of Eggplant Pesto – this is a strong cumin spiced version and also dark colored.

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F and line a Swiss roll pan (30cm x 24cm) with parchment paper.
  2. Cooke the cubed sweet potatoes in a plastic bag in the microwave for 7-8 minute to cook
  3. Remove from the bag and add to a food processor
  4. Separate the 4 eggs.
  5. Add the yolks to the food processor along with the shredded cheese, clove,  nutmeg,  and ginger, salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Process the mix until smooth and a thick puree and pour into a large bowl
  7. Add 1/2 the chives and fold twice more.
  8. In a stand mixer (or by hand), whip the egg whites to soft peaks
  9. Fold in the egg whites to the puree and fold gently to incorporate
  10. Pour the mix into the sheet pan and smooth with an offset spatula so that its evenly distributed in the pan.
  11. Bake 10-12 minutes. You want it brown around the edges and spring back to the touch in the center
  12. Pull the pan out of the oven and cover the “cake” with another sheet of parchment and upside down sheet pan and flip it over. You want to cake to me on the parchment on the pan but without the edges, so you can slide it on the counter to roll easier.
  13. Remove the cake and paper to the counter.
  14. Roll the cake up with the paper attached ( as if it were filling) and wrap in plastic and chill for 30 – 60 min.
  15. While it chills – mix the cream cheese, black pepper to taste, pinch of salt, till smooth
  16. Remove the roll and unroll.
  17. Spread the cream cheese on it. work from the center out to the edges. ( I tend to use the stuff it in a plastic bag, cut the tip and make zig zags, them smooth them out technique so minimize breaking the cake)
  18. Then add the layer of tomato pesto and top with the diced chives
  19. Then remove one edge of the cake from the paper and slowly roll the cake up. Pull the paper away as you make each rotation.

Now – you serve this at this point. But I wanted a “log” so..

  1. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill.
  2. Mix the remaining two bricks of more cream cheese with the eggplant pesto, taste for salt and pepper etc.   You can then add your gel colors to get the shade of brown you want as you mix it more.
  3. Then using a small spatula, cover the log in long strokes.
  4. Serve room temp.

Another version of this cake with flour can be found here but I have to say the flourless one was so good I don’t see the need.

Pizzagaina vs Ham Pie.. it’s all good

Its spring and that means its time for me to make the Pizzagaina or “Meat Pie”.

Which in itself is no small task. It takes planning, shopping and lots of prep. I wrote about this in the past here.

So last night after work and while doing some recording, I started the baking the batches. I had already prepped the meat and cheese earlier in the week and did the dough the night before.

Now, this isn’t your standard hand pie. This is the Italian older cousin. It’s dense, rich with eggs and cheese and full of dried and cured meats. Think “cheesecake meets quiche” but without the jiggle.  You will hear this called by many names from including; Easter Ham Pie, Pizzagaina, Pizza Rustica but they all mean essentially the same thing.

I have several versions but as I’ve written before this is my favorite basic version recipe. You should feel free to swap out the meats for what you can find locally to you. I also started to try out doing them as mini loaves as they freeze and are great house gifts for pals

 

In praise of ‘scruffy hospitality’ hits the nail on the head in my house

In praise of ‘scruffy hospitality

Now in my world “scruff” means so many other things when associated with being social – but this wasn’t one of them until now.

Yup- that’s me!

“Your home doesn’t need to be picture-perfect to invite people over,” says this recent quote from Robin Shreeves’s recent post that has been making the rounds on social media platforms and I can see why. It’s a welcome and heartfelt reminder of what is important when we gather and they, in the end, it isn’t about the artifacts of the room.

 

I love this idea for hospitality

Sure I can go all out for the special occasions and yea even I fall into the “vision” of the night and try to create some sensational times with the decorations, and flowers etc. These occasional meals of formality, while a good time can also be a place of such stress. Trying to make a “silk purse from a elephants ear” comes to mind.

Find the calm in hospitality

But I when I calm down and remember what the joining of people over a meal is all about for me, I remember that some of my best times with people growing up and as an adult has been the “take me as I am and as my kitchen is” variety. From a hasty last-minute New Years Eve Dinner to an annual open house while it might not be anything fancy –  it will have plenty of good people and simple food the deeds the belly and the heart. Recipes that often come from the books my Mom and others used before me.

One pull quote they use in the articles sums it up great:

Hospitality –  in the end

it doesn’t matter how perfect the place looks, and sometimes not everything has to taste perfect. On many a night 9 out of 10 things were great, but i could have derailed myself over the one item that didn’t come out right.

People won’t remember the room,

what they will remember is being welcomed, fed and loved.

Xmas Recipes 2019

Here they are

I figured it was easier to post the links in one place for folks than trying to constantly add links to the recipes on Facebook. Since many of you asked about the recipes for the South African Chocolate Pepper Cookies and the Polenta Parmesan Cookies I mentioned on an earlier this week, I will start with them.

Black Pepper Chocolate Cookies

This recipe is pretty easy and I recommend you read the instructions a few times first. The Author also suggests starting with the minimum amount of black pepper and then ramp up. I think when I make a new batch I will increase the black pepper up a 1/2 tablespoon. I think you might also be able to swap out the pepper for other types you might have handy as well.

The recipe link is from the website Food52 and was reposted according to the author notes: Text and recipe from Where Flavor Where Flavor Was Born by Andreas Viestad Born by Andreas Viestad (Chronicle, 2007).

Polenta Parmesan Cookies

This recipe was in the December 2018 issue of Food Network Magazine on page 84. The recipe itself is pretty basic and already I am thinking adaptions. Such as making them a bit thicker and turning them into “thumb” print cookies and topping with pepper jelly or a tomato bacon relish. To the taste, they read both sweet and savory so I imagine I could also top with Lemon Rind Jelly.  Just a note on this one – it does need to time to chill. I made mine the night before and sliced and cooked them the next day.

The recipe link is Polenta-Polenta-Parmesan Cookies on Food Network Magazine

 

It was a book club that Sunday and I went big

Because book club discussions aren’t always just about talk.

Our monthly book club is also about what foods we bring; what reading the book inspires us to bring and share. Many of us choose to find a way to bring an authentic or reinterpreted version of something mentioned in the book or from the time period.

Since this month we read David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. 

My take on the book was positive as a read. Finding it a well-balanced collection of research and storytelling that manages to remind the reader of the historical narrative of racism and white privilege at the heart of so many of this countries moments. But the subject did give me several layers of emotions.

But back to the food

I opted for a Bourbon Pecan Cornmeal cake with an edible gingerbread oil rig and chocolate “oil”. My unique challenge was that I have never made a gingerbread oil rig or any structure before. So choosing the right recipe and the structural challenges were quite the experience. But in the end, it all worked out.

I won’t even mention the stress of moving it in two parts then topping the cake with its “rig” caused.

The cake itself was great.

I liked to cornmeal texture with the nuts. It is one I would remake. The recipe for the cake was from http://eclecticrecipes.com and used walnuts, but I had pecans laying around begging to be used.

5 Secrets to Eating a Sustainable Diet

Today, healthy eating habits are more than just good for individual well being; it’s also contributing to the community at large. If you are looking to eat a more sustainable diet, here are five tips to steer you in the right direction.

Buy Locally

Start looking to buy locally grown foods. Farmer’s markets are usually great to find sustainable groceries. If you live in an area that does not have a close enough farmer’s market kiosk or location, find a grocery store near you who imports produce from nearby farms in your city. Some markets collaborate with grocery stores to sell their produce for easy access to fresh local goods.

Go Plant-Based

Vegan is now a rapidly growing diet of choice for people choosing to eat clean. But if you are not ready to make this transition entirely, no worries. Just start adding more fruits and vegetable to your meals. Eatingbetter.org suggests eating more fresh produce and decreasing your animal consumption. This will contribute to fewer health risks and reduce greenhouse gases pollution. Plus, plant-based foods are loaded with antioxidants, which is one of the main benefits of a plant-based diet. Rather than making meat the main course, for example, perhaps serve it as a side dish occasionally.

Recognizing Sustainable Groceries

In addition to farmer’s markets, as stated above, there are other ways to locate sustainable groceries. Most notably, food co-ops are where a group of people in a community or organization come together as owners of a store, for the benefit of all members involved. They make a more conscious effort to favor sustainable, local and organic products. Sustainabletable.org reports that if you shop at larger chain markets, you can still find sustainable or organic products, but you still might have to ask.

Grow Your Own

You don’t necessarily need to have a large backyard designated for gardening. There are select herbs, fruits and vegetables you can begin seeding inside your home and grow outside on a small patch of earth, or on your balcony, come the right season. Growing your own produce is a gratifying and sustainable, cost-effective way to eat. If you really don’t have outdoor space, join a community garden. Growing your own food can also open you up to inspiration in the kitchen, especially when you have a restrictive diet. For example, if your a fan of pizza and a vegetarian, but feel as if you can’t really enjoy one, you can always replace typical toppings with the contents of your gardens. Mushrooms can be a great protein replacement in pizzas, or you can spice things up with jalapenos and other peppers.

Check the Label

Look for products carrying the Fair-Trade Certified label. This allows producers from poorer countries to get fair deals for their products. Fairtradecertified.org provides an excellent resource for contributing companies who support this global movement.

These are all easy ways to practice a more sustainable lifestyle. Clean eating and living will give you good health while making your planet better. Cheers!

References:

Mind Body Green | 9 Tips For Anyone Who Wants To Go Plant-Based

Kiwi Power Company | What it Means to Live a Sustainable Lifestyle, and How to Do It

Forbes | Green Efforts, Golden Opportunities: Two Grocers Explore Different Paths

ASEA | What Is It and Why Are People So Excited About It?