Wednesday, July 25, 2012

on taking risks...

coneflowers, 2012

Living is a form of not being sure,
not knowing what next or how.  The moment you know
how, you begin to die a little.
The artist never entirely knows.  We guess.  We may be
wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.

- Agnes de Mille

Sunday, July 22, 2012

peanut butter pie it is...

Every town has them- the little tourist traps that lure in unsuspecting out- of- town visitors with unique gifts and inflated prices.  The locals know where to find these little gems and typically warn their guests by steering them to other, more reasonably priced stores. In spite of the fact that everyone loves a good deal, it's these little shops that ultimately give a town their distinction and character- and after growing up in a small town out west whose economy always seemed to precariously balance on the dollars of the "snow birds", as we liked to call them, I didn't mind driving right into the lions den- even if we had only a few dollars in our pockets to spend.

The nieces were in town from AZ and knowing that we only had two weeks to spend with them, we decided to fill up the days with an abundant taste of Pennsylvania- so naturally Lancaster County was on the list.  If you've never been, there is a little cluster of shops off of the Old Philadelphia Pike in Intercourse called Kitchen Kettle Village.  Cute little shops that sell homemade pepper jams and smoked sausages, amish heirloom quilts and crafts, and t-shirts that proclaim "I love Intercourse, Pa" without the slightest embarrassment.  As we were moseying through one of the shops selling amish paintings, Mr. Tailor came across a series of little cookbooks that were going for only two dollars a piece.  If I could remember the name of the store, I'd share it with you, but for the life of me, the name won't come; in any case, we decided to purchase three of these little cookbooks in the nameless store: The Best of Pies,  The Best of Casseroles, and The Best of Candies, Beverages & Snacks from Amish and Mennonite Kitchens by Phyllis Pellman Good and Rachel Thomas Pellman.  Each book contains sixteen tried and true recipes that are very good, according to the kind woman sitting next to the cash register who helped us out on that warm, rainy day.

Mr. Cook couldn't wait to give the Best of Pies cookbook a try as soon as I'd let him have free reign of the kitchen.  Inside the book one can find the standard apple pie recipe, as well as a pumpkin and blueberry pie, but the Dried Snitz and Mom's Mincemeat Pie were new to me. After careful consideration, he decided on the Peanut Butter Pie found on page 12.  In all of my thirty-nine years, I'd never tasted a peanut butter pie before and once he mentioned it, I tried to guide him towards the Shoo-Fly pie instead, as thoughts of peanut butter sticking to the roof of my mouth dashed through my head. Yet he was insistent and ultimately his choice won out.
For those of you feeling a little daunted in trying the peanut butter pie, let me reassure you that this recipe calls for only 1/3 cup of peanut butter- and this ingredient is only found in the crumb topping.  The rest of the pie is actually a very nice custard. In no time at all, Mr. Cook had the pie assembled and chilled with only a small bit of help with the crust. Everyone gobbled up their slice, cast in their vote, and miraculously, we all declared it a winner.
Here is the recipe if you'd like to bring a little taste of Pennsylvania into your own home. And by the way, if you happen to know the name of the amish shop that held these little cookbooks, kindly share it with the woman over here bearing the dusty memory cells.

Peanut Butter Pie
makes 19" pie

      2/3 cup confectioner's sugar
      1/3 cup crunchy peanut butter

1. Mix together until fine crumbs are formed.  Sprinkle half of the crumb mixture in bottom of baked pie shell.  Reserve other half of crumbs for topping.


      2 eggs yolks, beaten
      1/3 cup sugar
      1 Tbsp flour
      1 Tbsp cornstarch
      2 cups milk
      1 Tbsp butter
      1 tsp vanilla
      19 " baked pie shell

1. Combine sugar, flour, and cornstarch.  Add to beaten egg yolks.  Mix to form a smooth paste.  Add milk and cook, stirring constantly until thickened.  Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla.
2. Pour partly cooled filling into baked pie shell.  When cooled, sprinkle with remaining crumb mixture.  Serve with whipped cream.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


yellow peppers

Cucumbers and yellow peppers for pickling.
Kale for green drinks.
Rhubarb for pie.
Blackberries and blueberries for breakfast... if the gray catbirds don't nab them first.

How does your garden grow?

Monday, July 9, 2012

alleviating summer boredom...

Mr. Tailor and Mr. Reporter spent most of yesterday afternoon putting together another video.  They kept kicking Mr. Hero and I out of the dining room and into the kitchen- behind the closed door, claiming that we were talking too loud, sabotaging their efforts.  It wasn't until today that Mr. Reporter pulled out a chair and invited me to take a look.  Within seconds it was easy to see the true logic behind their methods. 

The video is corny and the acting is overdone (those are their words) but it is so... well, BOY.  It will give you a chuckle, anyway.


*a large, higher quality version of the video can be seen at this link:  if you want to check it out.

Friday, July 6, 2012

gone fishin'

All week long, temperatures had been sweltering in the 90's and from the looks of the weather report, Independence Day wouldn't be any different.  I'd already declared to Mr. Hero that we needed to sink our canoe into the water at least five times this summer in order to feel like we'd made good use of the three hundred dollar investment we put into the thing- five years ago.  The number five was just some arbitrary number- it could have been three or eight if I was really ambitious- though in my head it seemed that five times would somehow be able to make up for the past few years we hadn't used it at all.  

While I'm pretty sure that the thought of maneuvering the canoe up onto the roof of our van for any length of time sounded really unappealing, it was easy to argue that this would be the first year we had two strapping teenagers who had both managed to surpass Mr. Hero in height, and with their help the job would be very workable- if not painless.  The hardest part would be deciding where to launch.

I'd tossed out a few ideas: we'd already hit Tuscarora Lake earlier this month, which is located in the beautiful Tuscarora State Park, near Pottsville- so that was out; we could try the lake at Wildwood Nature Center;  Laurel Lake down past Carlisle; or keep it simple and hit the Susquehanna.  Mr. Hero didn't like any of those ideas until the Yellow Breeches, located in Boiling Springs, was mentioned. The Breeches reminded him of a conversation he'd had with an old friend in which plans had been tossed around to get in some serious fishing time on the creek- which was practically in our friend's backyard.  In other words, male bonding had been long overdue and unfortunately, it had been at least three years since that idea had surfaced.  This week seemed like the perfect time for the plans to finally materialize and after a quick phone call, it was all settled- we'd be hitting the Yellow Breeches by 9am the next morning.

The Yellow Breeches is an old creek that was originally used by the Susquehannock Indians until their demise in the 1600's .  Later the Shawnee Indians, with the permission of the Penn Family and the Delaware Indians, began to settle along it's banks.  There are a few stories out there about how the Yellow Breeches acquired it's name- although none are conclusive*. Our friend, Jim, shared the local story of how the British soldiers, while trudging through the creek during the Revolutionary War, turned their white breeches yellow, hence the creek acquired it's name.

Each year, the PA Game and Fish Department stocks the creek with all kinds of trout- a fact well known by both fly fishermen and bait fishermen alike.  And as we were moseying on down the creek, we saw plenty of both classes of fishermen, decked out in their fishing hats, vests, and waders, who were kind enough to give us tips on what they were reeling in.

There are three common trips along the Yellow Breeches that people enjoy canoeing.  We decided to take trip A which took us about three hours because we were piddling around- but if one had the gumption, they could easily paddle the entire trip in about an hour. There were areas where the water was shallow and we would have faired better to ford on through- as scrapes on the bottom of the canoe can attest to that.  There was another area where the small rapids caught us off guard and Jim, Mr. Tailor, and Mr. Reporter capsized their canoe.  But no harm was done and all of the contents of the canoe- including the 12 inch rainbow trout (er... 16 inch) and Mr. Tailor's digital camera were kept safe.

Others were enjoying the creek as well- college girls wearing bikinis as they floated along on inflatable inner tubes, teenagers jumping from the rope swings they'd strung up into the maples along the banks- allowing them to release into the deeper pools, there were kayakers- some serious and some beginners, and then the older waders who were just soaking in the sunshine with nothing but time to kill.  

Not a shabby way to spend the holiday... floating along, happy to be free.

*Yellow Breeches Watershed Association