Grandma’s Recipe Box

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When I was in the Hoosier state for the holidays I found a new item on my mother’s shelf of kitchen knick-knacks: My grandmother’s old recipe box. She’s in a nursing home now and stopped cooking many years ago, but back in the day no one could match her. And I know — we all think that about our grandmothers. Nostalgia sets our memories even better than eggs set a cake.

So what was in the recipe box? Mostly baked goods: Desserts like cookies, pies and cakes, and some heartier main courses like the hash brown casserole I’ve set out below.

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From Farm to Table: Cranberries

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“From Farm to Table” is a series of posts showcasing the small-scale farming culture of New England. Despite what people assume, there’s a lot of it going on around here. Midwesterners can barely conceptualize a farm that doesn’t stretch on and on, with stubby, leafy rows of soy beans blending into tall rows of yellow-topped cornstalks, and long, flat rows of pig barns, white-painted farmhouses and an occasional mammoth grain silo as the only man-made structures you might see for miles. Farming is very different around here, but just as culturally vital.

Last month, Peter and I visited a cranberry bog in Chatham, on Cape Cod. As any casual reader of this blog knows, Peter and I are frequent visitors to Cape Cod — even more so now that we live in Massachusetts. The Cape is great in so many ways, but especially for the deep sense of rural tranquility it can quickly impart (in the off-season) to someone who lives a mere hour away in the suburbs of Boston. And if you’re not from Massachusetts, you can be forgiven for not realizing that — like in most rural areas — there are lots of farms on Cape Cod: cranberry farms.

Growing up in Indiana you really only associate commercial farming with corn and soybeans. Most people, in general, I think, associate commercial farming with these sorts of mega crops. And for good reason. During our tour, our tour guide (also the bog’s owner) told us it’s mostly these large farms that lobby for and benefit from government policies, including subsidies, buybacks, etc. Cape cranberries don’t receive a lot of government support, even though the industry has been struggling.

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This month’s recipe: Summer succotash

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Summer Succotash

Beans, beans, the colorful fruit …

So I’ve changed the name of this feature to “This month’s recipe” because it looks like I might only have time to update it once a month, not weekly. I promise, I do cook a lot more than that, but usually not something new or interesting enough for me to post about.

My last experiment was quick and easy, a dish that truly belongs on a blog about living in the Northeast: Succotash. The word “succotash” comes from the Narragansett Indians, and it’s considered a traditional New England dish.

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This Month’s Recipe: Possibly the Best-Ever Jerk Chicken Tacos

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Jerk Chicken Tacos

Tastes as good as it looks.

This jerk chicken is possibly the best thing I’ve ever made with my own two hands, so I wanted to share. It’s a great recipe for the slow start to spring we’ve been having in the Northeast. If it’s cold outside, you can leave the chicken whole or use the leftover jerk broth as a soup starter. If it’s warm outside you can shred the chicken and add it to tacos — like I did — then wash the whole thing down with a cold lemonade.

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A brief foray into Connecticut pizza

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Where I come from, the concept of a “good pizza” radiates outward from its epicenter in Chicago – home of the stuffed pizza, the deep-dish pizza, and just in general pizza that can be measured vertically as well as horizontally. We also have our hyper-local favorites, as do most cities you could point to on a map (shout out to Mother Bear’s in Bloomington and Bazbeaux in Indianapolis).

As you might imagine, on the East Coast they have a different idea of what makes good eatin’ when it comes to pizza.
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This week’s recipes: More fun brunches

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So maybe I’m phoning it in a bit this week. I totally blew off the blog challenge last week because I’ve been insanely busy with my new job, and I’m even busier this week. But one of the nice things about working from home (among many nice things) is that I don’t have to spend cash or calories buying my lunch every day – I can just cook it on the spot, in my own kitchen.

I’ve also used my home-time (first being unemployed briefly, and now working from home) to experiment with brunch. Basically, I just cook what I usually would and throw an egg on it. This works like a charm almost every time.
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Food Adventures: Jalapeno jelly

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Jalapeno jelly on soda bread. I could never make something so ambitious in my own small kitchen.

As anyone who lives in a small apartment knows, their compartmentalized nature can constrain your ambition in the kitchen. My own kitchen is so tiny that it basically looks like an afterthought the builders sledge-hammered into the side of the hallway. It’s hard to get excited about trying a recipe that takes a lot of preparation when I know I’m going to have to stack ingredients and cookware on top of my microwave to get everything when and where I need it, not to mention the fact that everything will need to be cleaned in a sink the size of a shoebox.

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