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Posts Tagged ‘food’

Going Out (and Checking In) for Breakfast

Written by Melissa Pasanen on . Posted in Taste of the Landscape

Photo by Melissa Pasanen.

Several years ago, my younger son took music lessons in downtown Burlington every Saturday morning. About half the time, when some other activity was not scheduled right on top of the lesson, we’d cross the street afterwards for breakfast at Handy’s Lunch.

Handy’s is a three-generation landmark with a horseshoe-shaped counter, a warm welcome and strong coffee poured into classic, thick-walled, diner mugs. The food is also classic: good, straightforward breakfasts with crisp home fries and perfectly cooked eggs that aren’t trying to be anything more than they are.

As we ate, we’d enjoy the dynamics around the counter, joke about the legendary Yankees-Red Sox rivalry and just take a break from the jam-packed weekend schedule.

Those music lessons are long gone, as are the mornings when our two teenage sons woke up before 10 or 11 a.m., but we all miss the ritual of those Saturday morning breakfasts.

In our family (and those of most people I know), all four of us seem to be going in different directions at once, barreling toward the day that the boys will be gone for good.

Juggling the work schedules of three of us ― not to mention the boys’ sports and other extra-curriculars ― to find time to just hang out together is a challenge, even though we know it should be a priority.

One thing I still try to do is take the boys out to breakfast every so often, usually when they have a late-start morning at school. It’s an affordable and tasty investment in staying connected, not to mention a great way to start the day.
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Some of our favorite places for breakfast in the Burlington area include Handy’s Lunch, the Dutch Mill, Mirabelles, and Penny Cluse. Around the state, we recommend The Mix Café in Jeffersonville, Stella’s in Hartland and Up For Breakfast in Manchester (coming in our winter issue). We’d love to hear about your favorite breakfast place! Email Vermont Life Food Editor Melissa Pasanen at mpasanen@aol.com or tell us via Twitter @VermontLife or on our Facebook page.

Share the Harvest

Written by Melissa Pasanen on . Posted in Taste of the Landscape

Caption: The von Krusenstiern family has helped harvest produce at the Harlow Farm in Westminster to be distributed to those in need through the Vermont Foodbank's gleaning program. Courtesy photo.

A few years ago I spent a couple hours standing in the corner of the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf food pantry room while on a Vermont Life assignment. Trying my best to be unobtrusive, I observed dozens of diverse people coming through to select food for themselves and their families from among the boxes of cereal, cans of soup, bags of rice and other offerings.

I will never forget the excitement of one little boy whose mother let him select a few pieces of fresh fruit as part of their allotment, or an elderly man who stood there for almost as long as I did, patiently waiting for each replenishment of the fresh vegetable bins to get what he had his heart set on.

It is easy to forget ― especially at times of bountiful harvest ― that not everyone has enough to eat, and that fresh fruits and vegetables are particularly in demand.

Anti-hunger organizations in Vermont are working hard to provide more locally grown produce to those in need and although they always welcome donations of both food and funds to support their programs, there’s another way to help at this time of year that will cost you only time.

The Vermont Foodbank, which works with food shelves and other direct-service organizations like senior centers and after-school programs statewide, coordinates a gleaning program that depends on volunteers to help harvest excess produce from Vermont farms. Those farms, about 75 across the state, generously donate crops, but don’t have the time or staff to harvest them.

Michelle Wallace, the Foodbank’s gleaning program coordinator, says that now through the end of October is their busiest time of year. Because the Foodbank often does not have much advance warning of crops in need of gleaning, the most efficient way to find out about opportunities in your region is to join their weekly gleaning e-mail alert list. (See details below.)

What could be better than helping harvest chard, carrots or squash for a few hours on a beautiful fall day and knowing that you are helping neighbors in need?

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To find out more about the Vermont Foodbank’s gleaning program, go to www.vtfoodbank.org. To be added to the gleaning weekly e-mail alert, email Michelle at mwallace@vtfoodbank.org or call (802) 477-4125.

During apple season, the Foodbank’s Pick for Your Neighbor program also offers a slightly different way to help. When you head to a Vermont apple orchard to pick a bushel or two of fragrant, rosy-cheeked apples, consider picking and purchasing an extra bag for your neighbors in need. The Foodbank will pick up apples from the orchards. Check the website for a list of participating orchards.

The Fear of Canning

Written by Melissa Pasanen on . Posted in Taste of the Landscape

Slow-roasted summer tomatoes with herbs, before (top) and after slow roasting. Photo by Melissa Pasanen.

The height of the harvest season arrives for me every year topped with swirls of joy but also with a dollop of guilt.

As farmstands and farmers market stands overflow with deals for bushels of sauce tomatoes and pickling cucumbers, I avert my eyes and keep walking.

I have, I must admit, a deep-seated discomfort with canning.

I did not grow up with a canning grandmother―unless you count the fact that she knew how to use a can opener and ate a lot of things from mass-produced cans in her New York City apartment.

I worry the jars will not be clean enough, the acid level not high enough, the temperature not hot enough―and that I will be responsible for terrible gastric distress or worse. (My one major tomato-canning effort many years ago yielded neither illness nor death, but it did ruin an heirloom dining room table. Lesson: No matter how many blankets and layers of newspaper you put on a wooden table, the hot jars will still cause moisture rings as they cool.)

Several times, I have written about canning for beginners hoping to dispel me own anxiety and each time I feel more confident, but it doesn’t quite stick for the next year. (I think the time it takes and the heat of the kitchen at an already warm time of year might also have something to do with it.)

So every year I create other ways to preserve the harvest that do not require large amounts of boiling water nor active time.

In my kitchen right now, a slow cooker is simmering diced Vermont peaches with some sugar and lemon juice into preserves that will hold in the fridge for a few weeks (all it will take for my teenagers to gobble them up), or in the freezer if there happens to be extra.

While I was in the kitchen, I also sliced up an extra bowlful of not-quite-perfect tomatoes from my garden and my community-supported agriculture share. They went into a low oven for a few hours to slow-roast in olive oil with garden thyme, basil and coarse salt. Although we’ll probably eat them tonight for supper with some grilled shrimp, I could also freeze those for the winter when they will add an intense kiss of summer to a sauce.

During weeks that are really tomato-clogged and I have no time at all, I’ve been known to pop whole tomatoes in freezer bags and throw them in the basement freezer. They can go straight into a large saucepot in winter to simmer down into sauce; just food-mill away the skins and seeds when the whole mixture is cooked down.

I know preserving the bounty this way takes freezer space some don’t have and I know it uses energy that jars sitting on a shelf do not, but it lessens the guilt somewhat. Not to mention that it’s also all delicious.

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