Archive for the 'Family' Category



Pear salad with honey-cranberry drizzle

Thanksgiving feastOur family Thanksgiving menu is a little bit of a moving target. Turkey? Check. Stuffing? Check. Cranberry sauce? Check.

But sometimes the sweet potatoes show up roasted, sometimes mashed, sometimes in a pie. Some years, mashed potatoes make an appearance, other years, we save them for another meal. This year, steamed broccoli made the menu.

Yes, steamed broccoli. Come on…don’t you think “steamed broccoli” whenever you think “pilgrim hat?”

We generally have some manner of salad, and this year, Mom mentioned a pear salad in the days leading up to the feasting. However, at a critical moment just before our guests were to arrive, she arranged some romaine leaves on five plates and handed me three washed pears. “Here you go,” she said. “You’re in charge of the salad.”

The moment of truth upon me, I took a look at what I had to work with: one red pear, two yellow pears. Some pecans. Dried cranberries.

I set to work, slicing the pears thinly and arranging them on the plate in the world’s most OCD manner. As it turned out, I needed the whole red pear, and 1.2 yellow pears to accomplish an even number of slices on each plate.

That left me with .8 yellow pear. What do you do with that? It’s not like you can eat it, not when you’re faced with the impending groaning sideboard. And then, inspiration hit. I diced the last .8 pear, mixed that diced pear with dried cranberries, and topped the slices with the mixture. I added crumbled pecans on top, and then had to decide how to finish the dish.

Had I had blue cheese, this is where I would have crumbled some of that, too, and called it a salad. But Mom had just purged the refrigerator of blue cheese, and while she did have some blue cheese dressing in the refrigerator door, it was good that we checked the expiration date: it turned out to be June, and that left me back at the drawing board. It needed a finishing touch, and if it wasn’t to be cheese-related, then I was going to have to improvise an actual dressing.

“I have honey mustard dressing,” she said, but that didn’t jibe with my developing salad fantasy.

“Do you have honey?” I asked.

She did.

“Cranberry juice?”

Also a yes.

And thus was born a slightly sweet, fruit-appropriate, yet Thanksgivingesque dressing for the pear salad. Drizzled overtop, it was delicious, and would also make a nice addition to the table any time you have pears at perfect, sliceable stage of ripeness.

Pear salad with honey-cranberry drizzle
Pear salad (Serves 5)

Enough romaine leaves to line 5 plates
3 pears (preferably different colors, for contrast)
1/3 c. dried cranberries
¼ c. pecan halves
1 ½ Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp cranberry juice

  1. Line the plates with the romaine leaves.
  2. Slice the pears thinly, reserving approximately ¾ of one pear. Arrange the slices evenly on the lettuce leaves.
  3. Dice the remaining pear and mix it with the cranberries. Divide the mixture evenly between the five plates, mounding it in the center of the sliced pears.
  4. Crumble the pecan halves and divide them evenly between the five plates, sprinkling them over the mound of diced pears and dried cranberries.
  5. Whisk together the honey and cranberry juice (adjusting the amount of cranberry juice depending on how thin your honey is – you want this to be a mixture that can be drizzled) and drizzle a small amount over each salad.
  6. Serve immediately.

This is my contribution for Weekend Herb Blogging, which is being hosted this week by Truffle of What’s On My Plate. Stop by later in the weekend for the full round-up of recipes and other herb, veggie and fruit goodness!

No shortage of apples in Pennsylvania

Hollabaugh visit montageOne of the things that surprised me when I moved to Iowa — and oh, there were plenty of things that surprised me — was how many apple orchards there are around here.

My parents live in Adams County, Pennsylvania, home to apple orchards that dot the landscape as you drive down country roads, and that’s where I have become most accustomed to the apple trees, with their blossoms and heavy fruit. Iowa wasn’t where I expected to find apples.

This year wasn’t so great for Iowa apple farmers. We had weird, warm weather early, which made the buds blossom on the trees, followed by a hard freeze. Parts of the state escaped apple blossom trauma, but around Iowa City, things weren’t great for local farmers.

Pennyslvania escaped Iowa’s anti-apple weather. In Pennsylvania this year, there appeared to be no shortage of apples.

In October, I visited my parents for the weekend, and Mom and I made a trip to Hollabaugh Bros. Fruit Farm and Market, a sprawling barn that features apples, pears, and other locally-grown produce, along with more locally-produced jams, jellies and other goods than you can imagine. On Fall weekends, the place is packed, crawling with area residents (and the occasional, camera-lugging out-of-town guest) who fill bags of varying sizes to the brim with bulk apples, then stagger to their cars, visions of crisps and crumbles and pies dancing in their heads.

This time around, a Japanese man lamented the lack of Asian pears. Adams County might not have lost their apples, but it was, apparently, not a good year for Asian pear production, and they were running at a hefty price while we were there. But there were local persimmons, lined up like little pillows of sweetness, and at least a dozen varieties of apples and pears, including Bosc pears, banana apples, and the trend-eriffic Honeycrisp.

I had plenty of time for photography, since a 10-pound bag of apples does not make for a non-awkward carry-on item, but I have to admit I was a bit wistful not to be filling up my bag with varieties perfect for eating and cooking. Back when I lived in D.C., it didn’t seem like Fall if I didn’t make a pilgrimage up to see my parents and hit Hollabaugh’s, always buying more than I could comfortably eat. This time, I had to leave with just the images. After all, they’re much easier to take on the plane.

And, sometimes, much more amusing.

Mom and I get on the bus

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Kay Hollabaugh for stopping in the middle of her busy day to take this picture of me and my Mom. Kay said, “I don’t know about that bus driver…”

The precocious tomato entrepreneur

Andrew’s bag of tomatoesEvery time I visit my parents, there’s a little pile of things to read on my bed when I arrive—a conglomeration of programs from my mother’s concerts, news clippings, and other things my parents think I should read or see.

(I can hear my Dad right now…”Things your mother thinks you should read or see!)

This past weekend, when I arrived at their house, the pile included something a little bit unusual: a paper bag that had clearly once held produce. Interesting to look at? Sure. But it wasn’t until my Mom said hello to a mother and her son in the aisle of a jazz concert Friday night that I learned the true significance.

“Andrew, did you enjoy the concert?” she asked. The boy nodded fiercely, a giant grin on his face. As he and his mother continued up the aisle away from us, my Mom said, “He’s such a great kid. And such a wonderful singer. And he sells tomatoes!”

“Wait,” I said. “He’s the one who sells the tomatoes in the bag?”

Clearly I had already mastered brand recognition. And, in fact, that’s who it was. I had met the famous Andrew: Children’s choir member, jazz lover, tomato salesman.

The scoop is this, according to my parents: Andrew sets up a big sign that advertises his wares; has negotiated some sort of deal with his grandfather, who supplies the tomatoes (and by deal, I do mean deal…my understanding is that Andrew’s supplier offers him something along the lines of a 100 percent discount on his supplies, which has to work out to a heck of a profit margin); wraps the tomatoes up in self-branded bags; and sells them to one and all within the neighborhood. [Note: this information has been updated to reflect inside scoop passed along in the comments below!]

It’s definitely a step above the average lemonade stand. I’m pretty impressed.

Eight random things

Down at the southern tip of Florida, where they have to grow tomatoes in the spring and the fall because the summer is so freaking hot, my cousin Katherine started a blog this year: GFCF Mommy. GFCF stands for Gluten-Free, Casein-Free, a dietary lifestyle her family has adopted to help meet the nutritional needs of her adorable son.

Katherine picked me as one of the four people tagged for the Eight Random Things meme, and since she tagged me at the end of August, she probably has been thinking I’d forgotten completely about it. But I hadn’t–was just finding the appropriate time to fit it in!

I know I swore in July that I would not do any more memes, but family is family, and I am a big fan of my cousin’s blog. Even if you’re not trying to live a gluten-free, casein-free lifestyle, it’s worth it to check out her interesting recipes and stories. So…in honor of Katherine, I return to the well for eight more random facts about me!

  1. I just walked in the door from my first-ever Ani DiFranco concert. Can anyone explain to me why it took me 34 years to get to an Ani DiFranco concert? Can anyone explain to me why I had only heard of—not heard—Melissa Ferrick, who opened for Ani? These women rocked my face off.
  2. I have never been to Asia, but I really want to go. I have, however, been to every country in Western Europe. (You’ll have to cut me some slack on the Eastern Europe bit…I lived in Europe before the Wall came down, so travel was, shall we say, impaired.)
  3. I have an incorrigible Diet Coke habit, which became even more horribly apparent while I was driving around northern Pennsylvania and Central New York in July. For miles, no gas station, no grocery stores had Diet Coke. And trust me: I asked everywhere we stopped.
  4. Barring weather disaster, I will attend more college football games between September 1 and November 1 than I have attended the entire rest of my life. And I am loving every minute of it.
  5. I get nervous every time I pull up to a barbeque joint in Iowa. It’s not that I think it’s going to be bad barbeque, it’s just that I know it’s not going to quite cut it. This has nothing to do with not relishing my time in Iowa, but it does have everything to do with recognizing regional specialties, of which Iowa has many others.
  6. When I was in college, my advisor asked me to play tennis with her because her regular doubles partner had gotten sick. I had developed a pretty killer serve in high school, and delivered one, right into the middle of her back. Luckily, she never let that affect her grading when it came to my papers…
  7. I still own one of my very first cookbooks, Peter Rabbit’s Natural Foods Cookbook, written by Arnold Dobbin and illustrated by Beatrix Potter, which my great-aunt and great-uncle gave to me for Christmas in 1977. The most ingredient-splattered recipe in the book is Samuel Whiskers’ Roly-Poly Pancakes, which, to this day, tastes like childhood to me.
  8. I not only have a tomato plant growing out of the stump in my yard, but I just found one growing out of a crack in the sidewalk. I’m thinking about buying a bunch of seeds next year and just planting them in utterly random places, just to see what happens.

So…that’s eight things about me. I’m going to break the rules and choose not to pass this particular meme any further, but I do want to encourage you to participate in the comments. What random things are you ready to share?

I hate to be a tease…

My parents are visiting right now from Pennsylvania, and as I juggle work and playing hostess and the rest of my life, it’s not leaving much room for blogging.

But I have a story that deserves telling…and I can’t give it the writing time tonight that it’s due. So…here’s a taste of what’s to come:

Baby mantis

I hate to be a tease, but sometimes it just can’t be helped. Stay tuned for more on my latest friends in the garden…


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All words and images (unless otherwise credited) on The Inadvertent Gardener are © 2006-2008 Eugenia E. Gratto. All rights reserved.

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