Archive for the 'Holidays' Category

Singing for one’s locally-grown supper

The MetMy parents and I tried something a little different over the holidays this year — we celebrated in New York City. We hit all the typical requirements of Christmas in New York: the Rockettes, FAO Schwartz, Rockefeller Center, the New York City Ballet’s production of the Nutcracker — but also included plenty of unexpected stops along the way.

Among the most interesting of these stops was a backstage tour of the Metropolitan Opera, where we stood on the stage, tromped around amidst giant set pieces, and peeked into the dressing rooms.

Let you think it was all papier mache and union guys shouting at each other in thick Brooklyn accents (and there was plenty of both of those), let me assure you that opera singers and their behind-the-scenes team think about more than just the next entrance cue. As our tour guide whisked us through the maze of passageways behind and under the stage, I caught a glimpse of an article tacked to one of the company bulletin boards: “Let Farmers Fill Your Fridge.”

Because the Met has strict rules about making sure you are stepping on the heels of your tour guide at all times, I wasn’t able to take the time to skim the article or figure out in what magazine it appeared. However, it made me grin to know that even opera folks in the middle of Manhattan are concerned about the origin of the food that graces their table.

Green Thumb Sunday: Christmas bow

Christmas bow, frozen

Gardeners, plant and nature lovers can join in Green Thumb Sunday every week. Visit As the Garden Grows for more information.

Also, a very happy holidays to you and yours, no matter what you’re celebrating. I’ll be back in the New Year with more garden posts!

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!

Getting close to your food

As those of you who read this blog often know, I am a huge fan of the macro lens. Get close, get detailed, get intimate with one’s vegetables, herbs and flowers.

Besides, shooting the garden that way eliminates any chance that those of you out in the world will ever know the true state of my gloriously messy, not-very-contained garden plot.

I have not yet stepped out the back door carrying a microscope. After seeing what the folks at Wired came up with after examining Thanksgiving dinner through one of them there instruments, though, I’m intrigued. Maybe it’s time for me to get all microscopic on my plants?

Have a happy Thanksgiving, American gardeners. To my Canadian friends, you may have beaten us to the punch on picking a date, but for that, you get to spend tomorrow working while we have a vacation day. Ha. And to the rest of the world, well, I’m grateful you stop by for a read or two, and I wish you a wonderful day, as well.

See you on the flip side of the turkey, folks.

Drop in, decorate, be merry and bright

Drop In & DecorateWhen I was in high school, I started spending one day every holiday season baking cookies. A cacophony of cookies. I baked at least five or six different kinds, then bagged them all up in sandwich bags with holiday-wrapped Hershey’s Kisses and mini candy bars, then tied the baggies with green and red ribbon, filled a huge shopping bag, and passed them out at school, spreading sugar from period to period, gifting my classmates and teachers with a little bit of home-baked love.

Sounds precious, doesn’t it? Sure it does, until I tell you the part where, when I was doing this at somewhere around age 23, when it occurred to me that I hated this little ritual. I inevitably ended the day washing baking sheets somewhere around 1 a.m., after starting the process somewhere before lunch. Although I would have planned something resembling nutritious food during the day, I ended the day sick from eating bites of raw cookie dough, with aching legs, a small burn on my arm from hitting the side of the oven, and a general Grinch-like demeanor.

So, I stopped the tradition. Here’s the thing: I liked the idea of spreading cheer via cookies, but I had lost any sense of fun that went along with it.

But this year, Lydia of The Perfect Pantry, one of my favorite food bloggers, threw out an idea. She is spreading the word about Drop In & Decorate, an effort sponsored by King Arthur Flour. The idea is simple: bake some cookies, invite friends or family or co-workers or neighbors to help decorate them, and deliver them to a local shelter or food pantry, lunch program, senior center, or any other place in your community where folks could use a little holiday cheer. Christmas cookies, Hanukkah cookies, Kwanzaa cookies, Festivus cookies…this one is non-denominational and provides the opportunity to have the cookie experience without the gritted-teeth at the end of the day.

King Arthur is selling special Drop In & Decorate kits, and they’re providing a special offer: Order a Drop In & Decorate baking kit now through November 15, and King Arthur Flour will include a free dough scraper with each order. Add the kit to your shopping cart. On the payment page, enter Promotion Code “Dropin” to the Promotion field and click the Update button. The page will refresh and the dough scraper will be added to your order. Offer valid through November 15 only (but the kit is on sale until December 26, and would make a great holiday gift).

But this doesn’t require much more than a batch or two of cookies and your own creativity. If you’re interested in participating, I encourage you to learn more over at Lydia’s Drop In & Decorate page, where she has plenty of free resources available.

It’s enough to make an Inadvertent Grinch like me send out some invitations to folks in town. This might be the year I resurrect my cookie baking skills!


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

Drop in & Decorate

Bake. Decorate. Donate.
Free guide tells you how!