Snow!!

The dog, wondering why the chickens won't come out.

The dog, wondering why the chickens won’t come out.

Woo hoo!  Flurries!  I woke up to flurries and a cold wood stove this morning.  The dog is excited, my youngest son is excited, the chickens seem less so.  I opened the hatch on their house this morning, they walked out and stood on the ladder, and then turned around and have been inside ever since.  They seem to have the same feeling toward snow as many other people I know.  When the snow banks are taller than I am, I will join that bandwagon and bitch about shoveling.  I will.  I’m good at it.  But hey, it’s the first snow of the season.  All that dusty, muddy brown is turning to white.  As I type this, my youngest is getting dressed to take the dog out and play.  In fact, the dog just ran past my window at Mach 2.  She’s going so fast I don’t know if she’ll leave prints.

All set up for the Christmas market

All set up for the Christmas market

Yesterday I set up my little jam and cookie wares at a local Christmas craft market.  It was a bit of a reunion for some of us vendors who spend our summer Saturdays at the Upriver Country Market.  The market, which is held in a barn, closed for the season on Thanksgiving weekend, and will re-open next year at the end of June.  Some of us regularly run into each other at other markets and craft sales, but this was the first time the majority of the group was together in about 5-6 weeks.  It was fun, and a lot of wine jellies flew off my table, destined to become Christmas gifts.  Meanwhile, I picked up a few things for those on my Christmas list, like a great little purse from Val, who makes beautiful leather goods, and for me a little Dutch pie from Monic.  I came home with two bottles of wine from the Richibucto River Wine Estate.   But the best part of the day was winning a lovely hand painted bowl from the Williams.  I grabbed a couple of raffle tickets when I wandered over to the coffee booth and so glad I did!   All in all, it was a fun little market.  I’ve got two more to prep for this week, so I’ll be busy getting jam into jars and cookies into the oven.

The bowl I won at the market, handpainted by Maureen Williams.

The bowl I won at the market, hand painted by Maureen Williams.

Today though, my oven is reserved for fruitcake.  I’ve got a couple of people who’ve asked me to make them this year.  And by a couple I mean 25.  I’ve got my Nana’s dark fruitcake recipe, which is amazing!  Nothing like the bricks you buy in the store, that’s for sure.  About ten days ago, I made my fruit and nut mix and put it in a nice, relaxing brandy bath.  It’s been stirred daily and should be sufficiently steeped in booze to bake today.  Then I’ll baste them in brandy while still warm and send them to their new homes.  I will save one for us, though…I wonder if it goes well with the wine I bought?  Guess there is only one way to find out.

Fruit and nuts, relaxing in a brandy bath.

Fruit and nuts, relaxing in a brandy bath.

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First Farmers Market

For years, my friends have been saying “you bake so much, you can so much, you should sell it!”.  And I have a little.  I’ve done Christmas baking baskets for a few years and have used that money to fund our Christmas.  But this summer I thought I’d take the plunge and get a booth at the local farmers market.  This is the second year for the Upriver Country Farmers Market in Bass River.  A friend of mine had a table selling cupcakes (hers are so amazing!!  Really!  I’ll take some pictures and post them, Cynthia’s cupcakes are beautiful and delicious.).  She was really pleased with how well the market went last year, so I thought, okay, I’ll try it.

Now, I have a tendency to go a little overboard.  But better over prepared than under, right?  So, I made jam. I made rhubarb ginger jam, rhubarb vanilla jam, apple cider jelly, I’ve got blueberry lime jam, cranberry orange marmalade.  And after a week of rain, Friday was sunny, so I went strawberry picking.  My five year old and my husband came along, and we had three bowls full in 40 minutes.  Then we went home and I turned those into 52 jars of strawberry jam and 11 jars of strawberry rhubarb jam.  By the time I started getting jam into bottles it was 2:30 in the afternoon.  But I was in the groove, it was flowing, it was going so well.  Then I asked my husband if he would go to town and get me one more box of jars and three more boxes of Certo.  He came back with two boxes of jars and one box of Certo.  ????  I teased him that he suffers from selective hearing and he gives me the “gggrrrr” look before he headed back to town for me.

It was also hot on Friday.  Like, really hot and humid.  I was dying for a shower by noon, but thought, I need to get this done.  When the jam was finally finished just before 10, I got baking.  I needed to get the chocolate cinnamon bread and the giant oatmeal cranberry chocolate chip cookies done!  Since I had to work the day before (and my work is an hour commute each way) and then get groceries, not much baking happened Thursday.  So I said goodnight to my husband and started baking.  And baking.  I managed to pop into the shower while some of the bread was baking, with much relief.  You know, you can really tell you’ve been at it in the kitchen for awhile when you take off your bra and sugar falls to the floor.  I mean, I live by the ocean, I’ve had that experience with sand, but never with white granulated sugar.  Good times!

At 3am, my husband came walking out in the kitchen, eyes small and bleary and said “what the hell are you doing?”  I said, baking cookies.  He shook his head and went back to bed.  I was pretty tired at this point.  I just accidentally dumped about four tablespoons of my good Epicure cinnamon into the dishwasher.  Why, you ask?  Not quite sure.  Then I realized, I used to pull all nighters to study or party.  Now I was pulling baking all nighters.   Finally, I managed to lie on the couch at 4:30am until my alarm went off at 6:30am.  Oh yeah, gotta pack the van now and head over to the market, which is about 25 minutes from my house.  And stop at my mom’s to pick up the folding table she was lending me.  And drop off my five year old son.  Thank goodness for the world’s most amazing teenage daughter.  She painted my signs for me, loaded and unloaded the van, and was a terrific help.  I am blessed with great kids.  Truly a lucky woman.

So, how did it go?  Well, I over prepared.  My mom, who is a veteran of some of the bigger farmers markets in the area, took one look at the back of my van and said “oh wow, you’ve brought too much”.  But that’s okay.  Since it’s my first time, it’s hard for me to say how it went.  But my friend Cynthia said it was a bit quiet, she’s seen it much busier.  And she’s doing another farmers market in Shediac on Sundays.  I think I’m going to give it a try.  This farmers market stuff is a bit addictive.  I came home with a dutch apple pie, two dozen farm fresh eggs, got a breakfast sandwich and coffee while I was there and got to chat with some lovely people.  It was great to see some friends I don’t get to connect with all that often.

Lessons learned:  the cookies are big sellers.  Make more signs.  Bring more quarters for my float.  And try to get a few hours sleep before you go.  My afternoon consisted of me lying on the couch dozing.  The point where you are so tired you can’t sleep kind of sucks.  And my couch isn’t all that comfy for long periods of laying.

Giant Oatmeal Cranberry Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

3 cups oatmeal ( I like the large flake)

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 large eggs

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla

3/4 cup melted butter

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 cup white sugar

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup chocolate chips

1 cup dried cranberries

Start by combining the first five ingredients in a bowl.  I like to just whisk them together.  Then in the bowl of your mixer, combine the sugars, butter and oil until it’s nice and smooth.  In another bowl (this is when I love my dishwasher), mix together the eggs, salt and vanilla.  Now, add that to the mixer bowl of sugars and butter, once that’s nice and smooth, start adding in the dry ingredients.  I do it a little at a time until it’s all combined.  Then, drop the cranberries and chocolate chips in and mix.

Your oven should be preheated to 350, and you’ll need a couple of cookie sheets.  I usually end up with four cookies per sheet, because they are so big.  They need some room to spread out while you are baking them.  I use a tablespoon, and scoop out two generous tablespoons of dough per cookies.  Roll into a ball, place on the sheet.  You can bake them two sheets at a time, just switch their positions in the oven after ten minutes.  Then bake another ten minutes.  So twenty minutes of baking.  Let them cool on the cookie sheet for at least five minutes before you try to move them.  Put them on a baking rack to cool and voila!  Delicious!

Jamming

Farmers market season is about to begin for me. This will be my first time having a table at a market, so there are a lot of unknowns. But hey, everything is a learning experience, right? My booth is called A Taste of Kent, because I’m planning to use as many local ingredients as I can in my jams and jellies. I’m lucky enough to have a great rhubarb patch, so I’ve been making rhubarb ginger and rhubarb vanilla jam.
It’s also my oldest son’s high school graduation. So canning, gardening, and party planning are all sort of rolling into each other. I’ve got a few late nights ahead!! And need to find a way to maximize freezer space. I’m hoping to make enough at the market this year to afford a new upright feeezer. Now, off to transplant more peppers….

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