This just in:

Stewed rhubarb (chopped rhubarb cooked down with the tiniest splash of water and a bit of maple syrup) + plain, whole grass milk yogurt + a drizzle of luxardo cherry juice, and of course a cherry on top = Heavens to Betsy ! Lunch-packing in a pinch turns out genius. Currently the only category of parental wins, but I'll take what I can get.

Be back soon, friends.



Live from the internet...celebrating is good for you! Amen. Gratitude is too. And butter is a health food! (Duh). Which is why today we're celebrating our babysitter Casey's arrival for the summer with a big Thank You World ! followed by rhubarb pie with a flakey butter crust

Happy rhubarb season, friends. Don't forget to celebrate it, and thank you, as always, for being here.



The sun is out. The sun is out ! We made pizza for dinner and the girls played outside afterward, mixing dirt and chives and watermelon rinds into a chocolate cake they baked under the lilac bush. Three of us pretended to devour it with real spoons and one of us took an actual bite before realizing it was not, in fact, actual cake. I brought a blanket out and Alex and I sat, for a minute, wrapped up, watching the girls pick wildflowers and count the asparagus spears.

Four up! It's officially spring.

In other important news, last week my mom and my sister came to visit for my birthday, and my sister made an amazing chocolate cake. In case you need one—in case you have a happy, sunny celebration coming up, which I sincerely hope you do—here's the link


BORED BY YES // elspeth

I read a really great interview the other day in the New York Times with a woman named Amy Pressman. She founded a company called Medallia, a provider of customer service technology, a subject that sounds about as exciting as going to the dentist. But the title of the piece caught my eye. "Amy Pressman of Medallia," it read. "BORED BY 'YES,' INSPIRED BY 'NO.' I clicked through. And while the whole thing was interesting—there was a lot about overcoming "imposter syndrome" and facilitating faster learning environments and ownership and victimization—the most interesting part was the one referenced in the title.

"I heard this saying about 10 years ago that really resonated with me," says Amy. "'An entrepreneur is someone who gets motivated by the word 'no.' Whenever I hear 'no,' I think, there's a way to solve this. I get really excited by 'no.' 'Yes' bores me."

Aha! I thought. Yes! Ding ding ding diiiing

Solving problems, after all, is what makes life interesting. Luckily/unluckily we have plenty of problems to solve right now. It's a daunting time to be young and hopeful. There are many ways to create change, and a million different directions to go in. So, finally, as promised, here are some thoughts from my small corner of the world, focused on home and sustainability and cooking.



Don't buy plastic wrap, tinfoil, plastic bags, paper towels or really disposable anything. You don't need them! You can spend way less over time using these awesome reusable/washable alternatives:

—Fill a cupboard with Mason jars (or just save glass pickle, olive, juice jars, etc.). Use these for everything from canning homemade pickles to freezing homemade chicken stock.

—Invest in 5-6 pieces of Bee's Wrap, which works like plastic wrap using nothing more than linen, beeswax, coconut oil, and the heat of your hands. It's reusable for at least a year or two, and then it's excellent as kindling.

—Stock up on every shape and size of glass tupperware in multiples. Use these to pack lunches, store leftovers, or even shop for fish or meat or get to go food. Goodbye, plastic!

—Pack lunches in Bento Boxes with cloth napkins and real forks and spoons and water bottles. Use dish towels and cloth napkins for spills, dirty faces—everything—and keep a laundry basket under the kitchen sink for all the dishrags and aprons and lunch sacks and bibs.

—If you own a splatter screen for cooking bacon, let the bacon cool and drain on top, over the pan. This will save you from dirtying a dish rag, and you won't need any paper towels!

—Get 15 or so of these reusable produce bags and 7-8 Flip and Tumble grocery sacks, and keep them in a large tote (I use this large beauty from my friend Siobhan's store) and keep it somewhere handy so that everything's together when you need to hit the market or store. I also save my egg cartons in the tote and our returnable milk bottles so that I can return them on shopping day.

—Keep a black washable marker in your grocery tote and use it to label bulk items purchased in reusable produce sacks, i.e., fill one with pistachios, write the price per pound or item number on the bag, empty into a storage jar when you get home, wash, and repeat! (More on that from Bea Johnson.)

Snack Taxis! We're obsessed. Bye bye, plastic sandwich baggies. Or, as Sally calls them, "snaxis."

—Keep a few bamboo travel cutlery kits, a water bottle, and a handkerchief or cloth napkin in your purse. Especially with kids, they constantly come in handy.

—If you have a choice between a product in plastic and a similar quality/price product in glass or cardboard, always choose glass or cardboard. Plastic is bad news for our health and the environment, and paper and glass are so much more useful! Paper can be recycled or colored on or in the winter used for kindling, and glass jars in good sizes are great for freezing stocks, crushed tomatoes, etc.


—Set up a compost pile or subscribe to a compost service and compost everything biodegradable: meat, bones, grease, paper take out containers, wooden chopsticks, rotten milk, you name it.

—Dedicate recycling bins in the kitchen for the waste you produce: we have big tins for plastic, glass, and paper and we also save textiles in a large basket in a closet and batteries and corks in smaller jars.

Food Prep

—Make some basics: crushed tomatoes from the garden, meat stocks, big batches of cooked beans, granola, homemade bread—whatever you can get into. This will save you from buying these things in disposable containers and they will also probably taste better and be better for you. I also occasionally make yogurt (easy enough if you have a thermos) when I have the time.

—Ditch appliances you don't need. We don't own a toaster or a microwave, since we have a small kitchen. We reheat food in the oven or on the stove, and we make toast (and everything else) in a large cast iron skillet that lives next to the teapot on the stove.

One last thought: let's collectively acknowledge that sometimes all this positive change stuff can feel frustrating or even embarrassing. We go up to Wellesley fairly often to visit Alex's family, and often I shop at the Whole Foods there before we drive back to the Cape. I was in line there one day this winter, going through the check out counter with all my produce in my reusable bags and olives from the salad bar in a glass container. The very nice woman at the check out counter was having trouble with the tare (.75 pounds is entered as 75, .06 as 6 and so on, I have since learned, for those who might ever need this information).

At any rate, a very perfect, sporty blonde woman was waiting behind me, and she was watching all this very closely. I assumed she was thinking how annoying this whole charade was, and how nice it would be if I could hurry up and finish so she could head to yoga class or out for coffee or whatever it was she was going to do. I turned to her as I was leaving and apologized for holding her up, and I expected maybe a polite nod and moving on. But instead, she shocked me. "I was watching because I'm totally inspired by what you're doing," she said. She asked for the names of the produce bags and the grocery totes, and said she was going to go home and order some on the spot.

Which is just to say: you don't know what anyone else is thinking. Some people, inevitably, will think whatever it is that you're into or doing is annoying or frustrating or maybe both. That's a fact of life. But other times, every once in a while, you might find yourself out on a limb and and in surprisingly pleasant company.

Finally, these are just some things that I have gotten into doing, and that I like doing. I recognize that not all of them are for everyone, and I also am sure that some of you have other/more/different/awesome tips to share. Please do! That is the whole point of this life thing, I think: to keep learning from and getting inspired by each other.



Right-oh. Hello! That post about keeping a sustainable kitchen; it's coming. Really and truly. In the meantime, I made a dress and a really good fish stew and I thought I'd share. I don't have any photos of the stew because we devoured it so fast there wasn't time. And this happened without red curry paste! Wonders never cease. 

As for the dress: sometime during the summer when I was working a lot and dreaming about not working quite so much and winter, I made this list of things I wanted to do over the off season. The list was written on the back of a test print of the bar menu in black Sharpie, and it had the weirdest things on it. Some things were as tinily specific as "buy striped shirt from Siobhan's store" and others as big and awesome as "green power." (Don't worry people! I got it. Ha. But seriously, we're s l o w l y going solar. Hooray ! ) What's weirder is that without so much as looking at the list all winter, I did almost every thing on it. I guess these were things I really wanted to do. 

Anyway. Somewhere near the bottom of the list it said "sewing for girls." I don't know if you've ever read any of Kyrie Mead's blogs—she's had a lot of different homes online, and I wanted to send you a link to one, but she seems to be without a spot at the moment—but she's an amazing writer and photographer. She also home schools and is a nature explorer and an avid cook, and she knits and sews all kinds of beautiful items for her four girls. Sometime a few months ago, I tracked down her Pinterest page for sewing (who am I? I no longer know. . .) and got reeeaaally into the idea of doing some sewing for my girls. Hence the dress. 

Sally picked out the fabric—strawberry print—and has been after me for weeks to get sewing. Finally this weekend with all the snow, we picked out a pattern and got to work. The process reminded me how challenging and rewarding it is to do something new with your hands. There were several hiccups, but we got through them, and it came out just right in the end. We are all more capable than we think.


This recipe came from a new-to-me site, Alaska From Scratch. So far, so good. A note: I was out of red curry paste, something I almost always have on hand. I followed an online tutorial for a quick substitute and instead used garlic, fresh ginger, fish sauce, dried lemongrass, and red chili paste (which I did have), and it tasted exactly the same! Wonder, gratitude, and amazement. 

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 shallots, diced
1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste (OR! roughly 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger, 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic, 2 5-inch stalks dried lemongrass, 1 teaspoon red chili paste, and roughly 1 tablespoon fish sauce, or to taste)
1 and 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
1 teaspoon honey
1 bunch kale or chard several large handfuls spinach
4 monkfish fillets
a handful of chopped basil, for serving

Warm up the olive oil in a large heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring often, for 5-7 minutes, until tender and fragrant. Add the curry paste or substitute ingredients, the chicken broth, the coconut milk, and the honey and bring to a simmer. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed. Stir in the greens, then arrange the monkfish fillets in an even layer around the pan. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes, occasionally turning the fish and spooning the curry liquid over top, until the greens are wilted and the fish is cooked through. Serve hot. If rice is your thing, it'd make a nice accompaniment. 


CREAMY LAMB MEATBALLS // the local food report

If you have a few minutes today, give a listen to my dad sharing his recipe for creamy lamb meatballs on this week's Local Food Report. They are so good, and along with a spring salad and a plate of hot cross buns (!) would make a great Easter meal. 


This recipe comes originally from the book 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer, but my dad has tweaked it a bit to make it his own. Whatever you do, don't try to skip the half and half—buy some pastured cream and embrace the fat! That's why it's so good.

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 half-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced very small
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
8 ounces ground lamb
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon garam masala

Pulse the fennel and cumin seeds in a spice grinder until they are mostly ground but still have a bit of texture to them. Add this mix to a large bowl along with the ginger, onion, garlic, lamb, and salt and mix well. Use your hands to form roughly ten golf-ball size meatballs.

Warm the oil and butter over medium heat in a large cast iron skillet. Add the meatballs in a single layer and cook, turning frequently, until browned all over—about 5-8 minutes. Pour in the half and half and sprinkle the garam masala around, trying to aim mostly at the half and half and avoid the meatballs. (So you don't get any big clumps.) Raise the heat to medium high and simmer vigorously, uncovered, spooning the mixture over the meatballs every minute or so. The meatballs are ready when they are barely pink inside and the sauce has thickened, after about 8-10 minutes. Scoop out and serve hot, with spoonfuls of sauce, over rice.



I am just here to say CRIKEY ! the ricotta berry cake was good and gosh, geez so was the chicken. (Made one rather important change: used a jar of rose hip jelly someone gave us instead of the apricot jam. Seems to me you could also use orange marmalade or some sort of rhubarb jelly.)

That is all. Happy Tuesday—cake recipe below! Have a good one, friends.


This is adapted from Standard Baking Co.'s new cookbook, Pastries. The big changes I made were to cut down on the sugar (it started at a cup and a quarter—yikes!) and swap in whole wheat flour for all purpose. The result is more of a snacking/breakfast bread than a cake, which is what I prefer. We also used homemade ricotta, which was dead simple to make and absolutely delicious.

1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
10 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup ricotta
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 cup frozen or fresh berries (I used a mix of blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a standard 9" by 5" loaf pan. Whisk together the dry ingredients and set aside. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Scrap down the sides and add the maple syrup and ricotta and beat on medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs and vanilla, again scraping down the sides and beating until just combined. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined, and finally fold in the berries. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, until just set. Let the cake cool in its pan for 10-15 minutes, then turn out and cool another few minutes before serving, if you have that much restraint.


SUNDAY, MARCH 20 // elspeth

Hi there. Three things I'd like to cover today:

1. I've been missing you. Some small people with strong wills and messy hands have been keeping me busy. Ok, fine, and Outlander. Eeeyoow ! Jamie Fraser. Ahem.

2. I am hoping will ! be back in the very near future with a post on keeping a sustainable kitchen. It's something I think about a lot but don't talk about in detail much, but I've been thinking lately I really should. So, more soon.

3. Finally, last but not least, I just finished our meal plan for the week and thought I'd stop by and share. Deviled eggs, anyone?

Here's the plan:

This veggie-laden coconut curry bowl from Pinch of Yum. We've still got a bit of cabbage kicking around from our winter CSA, and my mom just brought some carrots down from her winter farmers market in Maine. Hooray!

Stuffed shells with homemade ricotta and last summer's tomato sauce. Enough said.

—With one of Drew's chickens, the apricot chicken dish my sister has been making OBSESSIVELY for the past six months. This'll be my first time, but I have 100 percent faith in her judgement...I mean, we can't even go shopping together without buying the same striped shirt. So, it's gonna be a hit. 

—In an ode to Easter: a lamb and veggie soup from Olives, Lemon & Za'atar. So far, it doesn't seem to be on the web, but if it's good, I promise to share. 

Friday Fish Fry ! We try to avoid canola oil (or more accurately, all new fangled vegetable oils) which means fish fried out is basically a no. But ! that doesn't mean we can't pull out a chunk of the tallow I made (which came out beautifully, using this tutorial and suet from Seawind Meadows Farm at the Orleans Winter Farmers Market) and some fluke and sit down to a treat that's going to nourish and please. Bonus: the slaw is another way to use up our winter cabbage and carrots, and we can make our own sweet potato fries, too.  

—Finally, because we all need a slice of breakfast/snack/after dinner cake sometimes, we're going to try a Blueberry Ricotta Custard Cake from Standard Baking Co.'s new cookbook. If the Linzer cookies my mom's friend Rebecca made from it over Christmas were any indication, it's going to be a winner. 

Happy Spring, friends.


A FLURRY // elspeth

There's been a flurry of activity around here recently. Not all food related, but mostly. Two weeks ago, on that snowy Saturday, we drove up to Canton to pick up our annual grain and bean CSA share. When we got home we packed over a hundred pounds of flour and popcorn and beans and cornmeal into the cupboards and basement in Mason jars and giant white tins. 

We were out of just about everything—we ate the last popcorn the week before, a sure sign that things are getting dicey—and after that the only things left were a few black turtle beans and some rainbow colored dent corn. Getting in the new shipment felt like a very solid form of food security, not on a big scale, necessarily, but in the sense of having something tangible tucked away. 

We cooked the first beans the night after we got home—Soldier beans, I think, or maybe Jacob's Cattle—and they were insanely good. I didn't do anything unusual, just soaked them overnight in cold water and then boiled them the next morning for a few hours on the woodstove. When I drained them they practically melted into the strainer, and for lunch that day I cooked them with olive oil, garlic, and a pinch of salt. We inhaled them, all of us: soft, billowy cushions of beany butter. 

Beyond that we've been focused on spring: placing a seed order and reading up on the possibility of getting chickens and planning out a new set of cold frames on the south side of my parents' new cottage. There's a list going on the chalkboard: move the compost pile, fence the garden, weed and mulch the flower bed outside the kitchen window. It is too early to do most of these things—the girls are still sledding down a stubborn patch of snow between the pear trees and the raspberries—but it's nice to dream.

And it must be coming, because today at the farmers market we were able to get onions and pea shoots and kale and basil and a big pile of suet to render down into tallow. I've never made tallow before, but I have rendered fat back to lard, and apparently it's a similar process. We're out of lard and we buy ridiculous amounts of olive oil and coconut oil and butter, and supplementing with a little beef fat for cooking seems like a good way to keep things more local, spend less on cooking fat, and get the health benefits of fat from a grass fed animal

I'll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, here's a little inspiration from around the web.

—A lovely piece from Molly Wizenberg on the importance of letting kids help in the kitchen.

—A Ted talk on the importance of WHY we do what we do, and an interesting-looking app for generating collaborative change within an organization. 

And finally from the physical written world: Simply Nigella. I checked it out from the library last week, and it's gorgeous. Best of all, every recipe is simple and inspiring!

Have a good one, friends.



I wonder, sometimes, how boring it sounds to be eating locally in February. Uh, yeah, we love kale! But then I make meals like this: pan-fried pork chops from the half pig we bought with grits I made from the dent corn that came with our grain and bean CSA, and Swiss chard my mom brought down from a farm near their house. It was a meal that satisfied in every way—it supported our neighbors and good farming practices and our own health and all the things we believe in—and it was also incredibly delicious. 

It also allowed for some learning. I'd never processed the dent corn we get with our CSA into grits before—I'd always just kept grinding until everything, or almost everything, was fine enough to be called cornmeal. But it turns out that's actually not ideal, and saving some of the bigger, tougher parts for grits is incredibly easy. 

We used this tutorial, but basically the first time you put the whole dried corn kernels into the grain grinder (we use this Kitchen Aid attachment), you use a very coarse setting. What comes out is essentially cracked corn. You then grind it a little finer, and two types of material come out: a fairly fine flour that looks like cornmeal, and bigger, harder pieces. You use a sifter to sift the cornmeal from the coarse pieces—apparently there are grades of sifters, like 1/16 and 1/32, and what you want is 1/32—and I have no idea where ours falls on this scale. It's your basic, every day kitchen sifter/strainer, something along these lines. But the instructions Alex found said corn generally yields fifty percent cornmeal and fifty percent grits, so once it started to look like that's what we had, I just used our regular old sifter and sifted it. I put the cornmeal through the grinder one more time on a super fine setting and set it aside in a jar for cornbread or biscuits or whatever baking project comes up next. 

The next morning we made our first batch of grits. I've always liked grits—they used to make them all the time at the cafeteria at Middlebury, along with a stomach sinking concoction called "Cheesy Eggs." I remember sitting in GIS class many a morning wishing I hadn't eating quite so many cheesy grits and cheesy eggs, and maybe that's why I've never gone so far as to buy some grits and cook them at home. But making them from scratch ! well. It may be a new Sunday routine. 

They do take a while—you add four and a half cups of water to a cup of raw grains, and like rice, grits are cooked with a lid. They also take some attention—you have to stir them fairly often with a wooden spoon and a whisk to keep them both from clumping and from sticking to the bottom of the pot. They're not a Monday morning kind of thing.

But when you have the time and you get the finished product, they're totally worth it. Both girls spooned down two bowls, and I ate a fair amount off the wooden spoon before any even made it onto my plate. The grits were creamy, almost Cream-of-Wheaty, but with a savory, cheese-laced flavor that I like much better. And they were excellent under a scoop of sautéed Swiss chard and mushrooms, and even better with a pan-fried pork chop on top. 


I've never had grits that weren't cheesy, though I'm assuming there are other ways. For now I see no reason to mess with a good thing: slow-cooked corn, melty cheese, a pinch of salt, and a little butter to smooth it all together. These are delicious on their own, but even better with something from the pork family (bacon? pork chops? pulled shoulder?) and some sautéed veggies or an egg. 

1 cup uncooked grits
4 ounces grated Cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon butter
salt to taste

Whisk the grits into four and a half cups water in a medium pot. Bring everything to a simmer, turn the heat down, and cover the pot. Cook, stirring and whisking often, until cooked through—depending on the freshness and coarseness of your grits, this should take between 25-45 minutes. When the grits are soft and have a texture similar to Cream of Wheat, stir in the cheese and the butter until you have a smooth, creamy mixture. Season with salt to taste and serve hot. 


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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.