June 26, 2012 § 2 Comments
Hey, hi. Remember me?
Nope, haven’t forgotten about Dainty Dot. Truly have not. It’s been a bit of a busy month. And I’ve had other things on my mind. Dainty took a backseat for a bit.
A backseat to what, you ask? I’ll review in photos …
Boo – she’s growing too fast. My iPhone can barely hold all the photos I take of her.
June has so many Instagram opportunities. I can’t keep up. Pretty, huh?
I’m slightly obsessed with yoga. Just slightly, but in a good way. Maybe I’ll talk to you about it someday. But for now, know that this mat has become a good friend of mine. And it’s fashionably orange.
So, I’m a potato farmer’s daughter. And an avid gardener. And for the first time this spring, it dawned on me: Why not grow some potatoes? And it shall be so. Technically once the flowers bloom, there should be potatoes under the ground. But I want them bigger than peas, so I’ll await awhile.
Oh, yeah, and by the way … we’re buying a brand-spankin’-new unit in a brand-spankin’-new building. New as in, this was a vacant lot last July. And it’s highly energy efficient and will have solar panels and is built like a German tank – and that’s with good reason. Obviously, more on this later.
But just because I haven’t been writing here doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. I’ve been taking a spin at fiction. More of a poetry-short fiction hybrid type of writing. And the cool thing is it’s fiction inspired by photos. The images are all iPhone Instagram pics taken by a friend who has a knack for knowing there’s a story behind a scene. Take this one, for instance. Who left the phone? Why? Who was on the other end? I took a stab at it—and a bunch of other photos, too—and am publishing them at The Skinny Fedora. The one above is “Hope Asked.”
So, give The Skinny Fedora a quick read and let me and the other skinny girl know what you think. Leave comments here or at www.theskinnyfedora.com.
April 18, 2012 § Leave a comment
Winter’s the time to be contemplative, right? For some reason I have chosen spring for that purpose this year. I’m taking each experience, rolling it around in my brain, letting it flow in and out, and seeing what sense it leaves. Too often experiences just rush in and out. I’m gonna change that.
Things have rolled in and rolled out over the last few weeks and I’ve found the ones I love:
Rooftop sunsets with friends.
Blue skies and reflections.
My yoga mat. I love yoga. I love the fact that a year ago I didn’t even expect I’d be saying, “I love yoga.”
Friends you give your spare key to. Friends you’d give your spare kidney to.
Little things that contain promise.
That my kitten is fierce.
Fierce with a capital F.
And that she is full of … personality. Let’s call it personality.
The color green.
Oranges and yellows and tulips and spring…
…and hearts that bleed.
December 2, 2011 § 2 Comments
If you are into home and garden stuff—the really classy mod kind—I’ve got a heads up for you. My adorable friend Jayme from Oregon runs a site called aHa! Modern Living. “Gardening with a modern flare,” as she puts it. It’s not for the casual hobby let’s-plant-some-flowery-things-here type gardener. “We’re about environmental stewardship, community loyalty, global responsibility, and leading a healthy life.” Sounds good to me, right? Yup, that’s what kind of person Jayme is. And I have a bit of a girl crush on her—she’s that nice.
Here’s a reason to head on over to aHa! Modern Living right now. She’s running a Weekly Holiday Giveaway. And this is one giveaway I bet you’ll like: Week 1’s freebie is a Roost Hemingway Muddler Set and a copy of Jayme’s newly published book Garden Rules. Men mow the lawn with a beer—so why shouldn’t women garden with cocktails? It’s only fair, after all. And doesn’t that Muddler Set look slick? Hmmm … wonder if I’m eligible to win?
Speaking of giveaways … I have accumulated a bunch of garden-related stuff via my day job. Watch for a Dainty Giveaway next week!
December 1, 2011 § Leave a comment
“Down for Maintenance.”
I’m not referring to the Dainty Dot blog. I’m referring to Dainty herself. Not one single post in the month of November. Call it my month of maintenance. Am I good with that? Yeah, I’m good with that. And now that December is here, I’m good with that, too. Get back in the saddle, as they say.
So, what have I been doing, maintenance-wise … Let’s see:
1. Exercise stuff. I had big plans to lose 6 lbs by the end of the month. A continuing bum knee (yes, ma’am, I did finally go to the doctor) kept me from running, but I learned to love the elliptical. But the 6 lbs? No way, but close.
2. I discovered I love yoga. Like, really LOVE it, with all caps. It’s kinda like how I really get excited about a batch of soft and growing bread dough. Or when the row of spinach seeds come up. But instead of bread forming or food growing, it’s me doing something really cool. I like it. I want it. I’m gonna keep doing it.
3. Shhh … Don’t tell my boss … I’ve learned how to streamline my work to get it all done in about … Well, in less time. At least for now – until travel season starts in a matter of a month or so. But, it’s afforded me some time to do #1 and #2.
4. I did go on one biz trip and extended it into a long weekend in Chicago with Jennifer. Here’s my thought on Chicago: It’s s nice town, and too bad it’s in the middle of the country. Because as you may or may not know, I’m a time zone snob. I just can’t do the middle. No offense, Middle America. You’re just not for me.
5. #3 also afforded me time to do some soul searching about what I wanna be when I grow up. And I realized, wait, I’m already all grown up. As Bette Midler says in my most favorite song she sings, “Is that all there is?” The answer? The answer … If I had the answer, man …
6. Speaking of looking for answers, So I picked up a thin book that’s been on my shelf for about a dozen years. It’s called Buddhism Without Beliefs. It’s not religiony in any way – hence the “without beliefs” reference – and it’s been a good way to get my head decluttered. I recommend it.
7. Pie was made. And if there’s anything Dainty does, it’s pies. It was just one pie, but it was a mighty fine pie. Dutch apple. Sorry I didn’t share. I’ll make another. I promise.
8. Dainty has plans in the works for 2012. Big plans. Now with the paying work streamlined into lean-flow efficiency, I have some time to do Dainty the way it deserves. Details to be revealed over the next month or so.
9. So, here’s a question for you: what do YOU want to see Dainty do next year? More travel stuff? More baking? Bread or sweets? Wanna know more about my mad skills in the garden? Oh man, I mean I’ve got mad skills. You want to see something, you let me on know. ‘K?
October 21, 2011 § Leave a comment
No, we did not whither away and die from lack of food after Day 5 of our Homegrown Food Challenge. We survived quite nicely, thank you very much. I’ve just not been … well … in the blogging mood, I guess. If you’re a blogger, you’re pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down. Hey, it happens. I’m back on track now, though, no worries.
Day 6—it was all the way back last Saturday. I had promised we’d kick it up a bit with something for breakfast that was more interesting than yogurt. And we did—omelets! Not an omelet, per se, but more of a flat egg. That’s what my mom called them when I was growing up. It’s just two eggs, slightly beaten and NOTHING added to the eggs, as you would were you making omelets. Just a straight ol’ egg. We added in some local goat cheese and diced homegrown tomato right at the last second, folded and called it breakfast. A slice or two of toasted homemade bread made it a filling meal.
After, Jennifer took off for the weekend to attend to some business, leaving me to fend for myself. Lunch was … honestly, I can’t remember. Must have been the last of the grilled eggplant paninni … yum … By the way, that post was way popular. Way. Popular.
Dinner was when I got creative on Day 6. Earlier in the week I had cooked up some homegrown Vermont cranberry beans. Used the pressure cooker, actually, and the process yielded some terrific bean broth. Add some homegrown leeks, homegrown carrots, and a neighbor’s small bunch of homegrown celery, and it’s the beginning of soup! I added to that the leftover Vermont cranberry beans, some leftover homegrown/homemade tomato sauce, a fading homegrown zucchini and a couple of locally grown potatoes—along with salt, pepper, homegrown oregano and sage. Soup and bread for dinner—the end of a great gardening day.
Our weeklong Homegrown Food Challenge ended not with a big banquet ala Julie and Julia, but on a much more common, everyday note. Plans for going out with a bang—lasagna of homemade pasta, homegrown broccoli, eggplant and kale—faded with the afternoon. Instead we hunkered down, ate our soup and toasted our accomplishment with the last of the local beer.
Next year … I truly wonder what that will bring.
October 16, 2011 § 6 Comments
Has this been the longest week ever? Were there 10 days in this particular week? God, it just seems never-ending. What is up with that, calendar?
Not to imply that the Homegrown Food Challenge is getting old. It’s not. As I said yesterday, we actually have too much food to work with, and I haven’t end gotten around to using our homegrown leeks and beets and … whaddaya know … we have a head of broccoli ready to go.
It’s just that, well, I’m realizing how boring my breakfast (or lack of it) is becoming. It’s the same, every time. Coffee, well, duh, I require daily morning intakes. It’s just the non-liquids that go along with that meal. It’s not as mind-numbing as the time in Jr. High that I ate a Toaster Strudel every day for two years. But … unless I’m going to have home-baked baked goods for breakfast, I’m not so sure I have any thrilling alternatives. Suggestions, anyone?
On to Day 5, which, I must admit, was borderline local …
Flat Black coffee with Maine’s Own Organic milk. Stonyfield yogurt. Local apple. Thank god for good coffee.
I feel almost sinful having the grilled eggplant paninni with smoky mayo two days in a row. But I did. And I loved it. Really and truly. No tomato this time.
Another local eatery. This time with our new-found friend who was flying solo that night. We headed to Gaslight. No, they aren’t a struggling local place that needs our money. But the place has darn-good food and surely the fish on the menu is local, right? And the broccoli rabe under the fish, I hope. The Harpoon IPA definitely was local. Ring it up—we liked it all.
October 15, 2011 § 1 Comment
Day 4 … halfway through our week of eating and drinking stuff as homegrown and as local as possible. How’s it going? Great. In fact, we might have too much food. Well, we’ll make it to the end, definitely.
Okay, I had promised some scintillating breakfasts. Not happening on Day 4. The morning meal, to me, is utilitarian. I know, that’s the wrong way to think about it. You’re supposed to eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen and dinner like a pauper. Or something like that. I honestly don’t have the stomach for breakfast until, say, 9 am.
Day 4 was a whole two days ago. Let’s see if I can remember what we had.
Flat Black coffee. Maine’s Own Organic Milk. And honestly, I may have had an apple. I know it wasn’t much. I was kinda busy and on a role with things, work-wise. Sometimes that happens. Kids, eat your breakfast and don’t be like Auntie Dainty.
Lunch … I have to say what I made for lunch was the best thing ever constructed out of two pieces of bread. Seriously. Some cookbook-writing chef is going to see my delicious creation and will put it front and center in his/her lunch options.
It’s a grilled eggplant and tomato paninni with smoky mayo. Recall the smoky mayo originally topped the broiled bluefish on Day 2. Imagine that spread not-too-thinly on two slices of homemade sourdoughish bread. And remember the eggplant on the grilled pizza from Day 3? Lay a couple of those grilled eggplant slices down on top. Add some sliced tomato, top with another mayo-slathered slice of bread. Put a bit of olive oil in a hot cast iron pan. Lay down the sammies. And add some wait to make them “pressed sandwiches.” In this case, I used a very heavy Dutch oven. Grill both sides to a nice crispness. Smoky mayo+grilled eggplant=the world’s perfect pairing. I wanted to share it with everyone and no one all at once.
We still had two bluefish fillets in the fridge from our Cape Ann Fresh Catch share on Tuesday. We did another round of Broiled Bluefish with Smoky Mayo since it was so good on Day 2. And we had a small side salad. See those beans on top? Vermont Cranberry Beans – the best homegrown beans. Ever.
That was it for Day 4. We won’t tell you if we finish the remaining Topsfield Fair-made kettle corn. We’ll let you think on that.
October 14, 2011 § 1 Comment
Day 3 on the Homegrown Food Challenge and no fish heads were lopped off on this particular day. But the grill did get lit, and that’s always a fun thing. Here’s how our day progressed.
Starting to look very familiar. Flat Black coffee with Maine’s Own Organic Milk. Stonyfield yogurt with local apple, honey and a crumbled Effie’s oatcake. We’ll get a bit more creative with breakfast on the weekend, no worries.
Jennifer and I both had big salads with local stuff, similar to the one I had for lunch on Day 2. Local lettuce and red pepper, pickled beets, homemade dressing, etc etc. I even made some homemade croutons from homemade bread.
This is where the grill gets lit—finally! We cranked it up for some pizza made with homemade pizza dough. Two pizzas are usually enough to take care of dinner plus give us enough for lunch the following day.
Pizza #1: Homemade sauce using slightly green homegrown tomatoes (similar to the roasted cherry tomato sauce I make), grilled eggplant (from farmers market) and locally made mozzarella.
Pizza #2: Homemade pesto using homegrown basil, grilled eggplant, roasted red pepper (from farmers market) and caramelized homegrown leeks.
Can’t have pizza without beer, right? We had some Whale’s Tale Pale Ale from Cisco Brewers on Nantucket. Pretty tasty stuff!
As I am two days behind in posting, I can hint at what awaits you for Day 4: One of the most fabulous creations to ever have been sandwiched between two pieces of bread. Think I over-exaggerate? Oh. No.
October 12, 2011 § 4 Comments
Fish have heads.
That’s right. Fish aren’t just big slabs of fillets that motor around on their own in the ocean or in a river. They have heads. And tails, too. And fins. They even have guts. All of that—plus the nice fishy flesh—constitutes a whole fish.
And that’s what we signed up for when we bought a 5-week share in the Cape Ann Fresh Catch Community-Supported Fisheries (CSF). Whole fish one week, fillets the next.
Yesterday was our first fish pick-up.
“You know you’re getting a whole bluefish today, right?” said the pleasant assistant when I walked into the CSF pick-up location and proudly announcing this was my first-ever fish delivery.
“Yup, a whole fish.”
“You know how to fillet a whole fish?”
“Nope, but I’m gonna learn today, I guess.”
Among the millions of dogs-learning-to-talk YouTube videos and clips of hormone-laden boys throwing themselves off suburban rooftops into holly-filled foundation plantings, there are videos that are quite instructional. A quick search for “how to fillet a bluefish” netted me two great videos by none other than Tony Maws, chef over at the Craigie Street Bistro in Cambridge.
Compare this photo to the one above: Notice how many more tools I have? An 8-in. chef’s knife, a rubber mallet, kitchen shears. Not kidding. And that was just to remove the head.
In the end, I had two nice 1.5-ish pound bluefish fillets and …
… some fish heads, tails and an intact spine and bones. Those were chucked into the freezer for a future turn in a stock pot. Also put in the freezer was one whole fillet. The other fillet was quartered, and two of those slabs were stored in the fridge. The other two were headed for the dinner table.
Finally, getting on with dinner …
For those paying attention, this meal falls into Day 2 of our Homegrown Food Challenge, and we’re doing our best to keep the ingredients either homegrown or locally sourced. The fish was locally sourced: check. The mayo? Jennifer’s a mayo whipper-upper using fresh ingredients. So yes, if it didn’t come out of a Hellman’s jar, this is locally made and sourced. And boy, does she make a yummy mayo.
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tsp. good-quality mustard
- 3/4 cup canola or veg oil (not a flavored or savory oil like olive)
- 2 tsp. smoked Hungarian paprika
- salt, pepper
- juice of 1/2 lemon
-In a blender or food processor, add the egg yolk and super-slowly (Jennifer’s exact words) drizzle in the oil. Super. Slowly. It’ll start to thicken and look mayo-ey. That’s a good thing. Want it thick? Less oil. Thin? More oil.
-Add in paprika and give it a whir. Taste and add in salt and pepper to your liking. Then add in the lemon juice and whir some more.
This’ll give you WAY more mayo than you’ll need for two or even four individual fillets. Have fun with the rest of it! We’re thinking grilled eggplant paninnis. Refrigerate and use within two to three days.
Broiled Bluefish with Smoky Mayo
- 2 6 oz. Bluefish fillets
- 2-3 Tbs. smoky mayo (recipe above)
-Place your oven’s top rack under the broiler and set your oven on broil. Let that heat up good and hot.
-Meanwhile, place the bluefish fillets in an ovenproof baking dish, skin side down. Spread 1 to 1.5 Tbs. smoky mayo on each fillet. I’d even do a little more than that. Just give the fillet a nice, thick coating of mayo.
-When the broiler is ready to go, place the fillets under the heat—7 minutes should do it. But, keep an eye on them. Broiler distance varies and your mayo could scorch. Some scorching is okay, but you don’t want grizzled char.
The mayo holds in the fish’s moisture and adds a tasty smokiness to the fish. Really quite nice.
I know some think bluefish is … fishy. I grew up eating bluefish, so I had no worries. Jennifer quite liked the fish’s flavor, too. Plus, the fact that the fish was alive and swimming earlier that morning had a whole lot to do with the awesome flavor.
Oh, that green stuff over there on the other side of the plate—that would be roasted romanesco.
October 11, 2011 § 1 Comment
Yesterday began our week-long Homegrown Food Challenge (HGFC). So, right from the beginning I have to amend the title, or rather—I should clarify and lay out the rules of this Homegrown Food Challenge we’ve undertaken:
- “Homegrown” … with such a small garden plot and the fact that it’s nearly done producing, we’re amending “homegrown food” to “local food.”
- “Local” for this challenge will mean somewhere in New England. I know, it could be more local than that. Maybe for the next challenge we’ll pull in the boundaries.
- Items that are in our allowable “pantry” include oils, vinegars and flours. And I reserve the right to add in quinoa as a “cheater” grain.
- Leftovers that were in our fridge need to be eaten, right? And trust me, we did not stock the fridge with “leftovers” so we could cheat with them.
- Our “veganish” diet – two out of three meals not containing animal products – will be put on hold for the week.
Hey, that’s not so bad, right? So far, so good.
To prep for the challenge, I hit the closest local farmers market I could find, which just happens to be at Boston Medical Center on Fridays. I came back with butternut squash, two eggplant, red peppers, dinosaur kale, two heads of leaf lettuce and romanesco – it’s like a fractal-influenced head of broccoli. All produce brought to us by the good folks at Farmer Dave’s in Dracut.
We also stopped by Whole Foods to find some local dairy products. And you know what? We did actually find some.
So, with that, let the challenge begin!
Breakfast: We need coffee. Coffee doesn’t grow in this climate. What to do … Well, there are local coffee roasters. That counts. And our favorite local coffee roaster is Flat Black Coffee Company with locations in Dorchester and downtown Boston. We’ve known the owner for years and can attest he and his crew produce a great and responsible bean. Into that cup we usually pour some almond or soymilk. Not happening this week, so how about some local milk? We picked up some Maine’s Own Organic Milk.
The coffee accompanied a bowl of Stonyfield plain yogurt – I’m positive all that dairy is from New England cows and if not, someone clue me in – mixed with a local chopped apple and topped with Topsfield-produced honey. Breakfast, done.
Lunch: Okay, so … It’s Columbus Day. Jennifer’s off work, and I’m working but not all that hard … A friend calls us. Hadn’t seen her in a while. “Wanna go out for lunch?” Say no? No. We said yes. And we opted to eat at a small, local Mexican restaurant two blocks away where I know they a) make a lot of their own stuff and b) could use our dining dollars. I feel completely in-line with the challenge by supporting our local small eateries.
Dinner: Gotta clean out the leftovers from the fridge, right? Pasta with shrimp, red pepper and pesto. And just the pasta and shrimp weren’t local in that dish. Plus, we had homemade bread. And, a bottle of Harpoon IPA brewed right down the street in Southie.
Day 2 should be interesting—it’s our first Cape Ann Fresh Catch share pick-up. Fish with heads!! Awesome!