New England Clam Chowder

We went clamming on a recent trip to Cape Cod. Well not really recent, but don't ask us where the last couple of months went. Stock it up to having very busy teachers' lives. 

Amy had never been clamming before, although Chris used to go all the time as a kid. The youngest of seven, Chris spent his summers roaming the beaches of the Cape with his brothers, sisters and cousins, and clamming was a favorite pastime, of course, as it involved mud and tools. He was (is?) that kind of kid.

Of course, it wasn't summer when we went. It was a rainy October Sunday (the picture above is us in Chatham the following afternoon) but we managed to get in about an hour of time with our pail and rake and scored two dozen clams of various sizes, from littlenecks to bordering on what we'd consider a quahog.

We kept them in a cooler overnight then created our own New England-style chowder with them once we were back in our home kitchen. It didn't come out quite as thick as we would have liked, but we were very happy with the flavors, especially how tender and fresh the clams tasted. Next time we might add more flour, or if anyone else has a suggestion on how to thicken it, let us know.

New England Clam Chowder

2 russet potatoes
2 dozen fresh clams
2 onions
2 bay leaves
10 cloves garlic, peeled
20 peppercorns
small bunch fresh parsley
2 teaspoons celery seed
1 cup water
4 ounces diced pancetta
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 shallot, peeled and chopped
1/2 stick butter
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
2 cups half-and-half
kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Worcestershire sauce, to taste

Cook the potatoes:
Peel, dice and boil the potatoes until they are tender. Then strain them into a bowl, reserving the water. 

Steam the clams: 
In a large pot put the clams, 1 unpeeled onion cut in half, the bay leaves, 8 of the garlic cloves, pepper corns, parsley, celery seed and water. Put a lid on the pot and place over medium-high heat. Steam the clams until they are all open, 5-7 minutes. Strain the pot into a large bowl, reserving the liquid. Remove the clams from the shells and chop them. 

Make the soup: 
Peel and chop the other onion and remaining 2 cloves of garlic. Wipe out the pot and return it to the stove over medium heat. Brown the pancetta in the pot. Then add the chopped onion, chopped garlic, chopped shallot, thyme and butter to the pot and cook until the onions are translucent. Then add the cooked potatoes and chopped clams. Stir in the flour at that point, and cook until the flour turns golden. Then add the liquids - 1/2 cup of the reserved potato liquid, the reserved clam broth, and the half-and-half. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and season with salt, pepper and/or a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce, all to taste.


New York Times' Quick Tomato, White Bean and Kale Soup

We signed up for a Fall CSA from Simpaug Farms in Suffield and we've been using up these beautiful fall vegetables right and left.

With our first batch of kale, which also had some lingering summer tomatoes, onion, and parsley along with it, we made this delicious and nutritious soup from the New York Times.

It includes a melange of veggies - onion, carrot, celery and garlic plus the tomatoes (we chopped a few fresh ones instead of the can this recipe calls for), potatoes and of course, kale. Fresh herbs like parsley, thyme and bay add flavor and white beans add heartiness.   
In addition to sprinkling some Parmesan on it when serving, we threw a big piece of Parmesan rind in it while it simmered, which added some saltiness and flavor. This recipe is bookmarked for sure. We even shared some with Simpaug's farmer Keith and he gave it a thumbs up, too.

Happy harvesting!


Go Local Magazine - November 2016 Issue

It's November. The month of Thanksgiving and thanks-giving. This month's issue of Go Local Magazine is out and it's filled with ideas on how to celebrate your friends and neighbors who make the CT/MA line a great place to live. 

This month's features include instructions on how to make your own fall leaf bowl, an article about the festive desserts offered at Armata's Market in Longmeadow, and a story on a local band called Farmhouse. There's a Go Local gift guide, suggestions on where to get the best comfort food in the area, and an article on Cold Creek Brewery in Ellington.

Amy wrote a feature on Chic and Antique, a Suffield shop known for their beautiful farm tables, on which you can serve your harvest meal on stunning Polish pottery from Janelle Imports in Enfield, also included in this month's issue.

And what's a good Thanksgiving dinner without gravy? Our award-winning recipe for Cider-Sage Gravy is this month's Go Eat feature.

There's even more to the November Go Local, so read it here now or get your copy at any one of these Go Local businesses and advertisers!

Happy Thanksgiving!


Hot Dog! Family and Friends Roadside Cart Debuts Wednesday November 9!

Perhaps you read my article in the July 2016 Go Local Magazine on Ellington native Nick Glomb and his dream to own a hot dog cart. Well, thanks to many generous donors to his GoFundMe page, and with help from the folks at New England Business Associates, his dream is coming true next week when the Family and Friend Roadside Cart makes its debut at the "Hartford Entrepreneur Hangout" Wednesday November 9 from 5-7 p.m. at the Hog River Brewing Company at 1429 Park Street in Hartford. All are welcome to attend. At this event, he will serve his first hot dog. Nick will be serving foods from local sources, including hot dogs from Bogner's Quality Meats in Manchester, Hosmer Mountain Soda, and chips from Severance Foods in Hartford. His cart was produced by Cart Concepts International in Manchester.

Congratulations, Nick!!! Way to go, and best of luck to you!


Go Local Magazine - October 2016 Issue

The October issue of Go Local Magazine is out! Go Local is a local lifestyle magazine promoting life around the Massachusetts/Connecticut line. The magazine features nearby businesses where you can play, shop and eat, and showcases the citizens who make the region a great place to live. The newest issue is filled with all the things that make this the best time of year, Autumn traditions such as corn mazes, marching bands, fall excursions, and more.  

Of particular interest to our foodie followers might be A Couple in the Kitchen's own recipe for Onyx Moonshine Apple Cake (page 39) and the feature on Foster Hill Farm in Stafford Springs. ACK fans may be interested to know that Amy wrote the article on Sue Muldoon, who is reviving the art of seatweaving in Enfield, CT with her business Redux for You (page 41), and also wrote the article on Ellington High School's Marching Band (page 11), who recently performed at The Big E.

In the October issue are also articles on a special Special Olympics coach in East Longmeadow, stone carving experts from Longmeadow, and a Monson family who is doing cool things with twisted wood. Included in every issue are the Go Local Picks, Local Snapshots, the Local Einstein quiz, and the Final Countdown (this issue's is 7 Places to Watch Football), and as always, so much more.

You can read the current issue online here, or pick up your FREE copy today and Go Local!


Facebook Video Recipes - Like?

So I finally joined Facebook. I gave in and joined the 21st century. And instantly, I was hooked. The connections! The memes! The 30-second video recipes! Like! Like! Like!

Then I tried one of those recipes for the first time. It was this one (Apple Roses), and I decided to make them instead of the usual apple pie I make for Chris's birthday. This picture is one of twelve - the other 11 aren't nearly as pretty. (Insert heavy sigh here).

Mistake #1: Relying solely on the one video. While the ingredients appeared as captions within the video, there were no measurements or actual directions. What can I say? That video made it look REALLY EASY, and I have a lot of experience in the kitchen. I got cocky. 

Mistake #2: Ignoring my intuition. I kept wondering, how are these apple slices, even super thin ones, gonna' roll up so easily inside the pastry without breaking or making holes in the dough? Answer? They aren't. 

Mistake #3: Trying to bake puff pastry at 330F for 30 minutes. More like 375F for 35-40 minutes. Unless you like to eat soggy, slightly raw pastry dough. 

Lessons Learned:

1. Do more research. Poke around the Internet, get clearer directions and/or tips from other people who have tried the recipe.

2. Listen to your inner chef. Soften the apple slices by simmering them in water for a few minutes before trying to bend them without breaking them or the pastry. And definitely turn the oven up, preferably from the beginning of the cook, not 1/2 hour in when you realize they aren't cooking.

3. Get real. It never looks as pretty in real life as it does in the video. And that's OK.

To sum up: There's a lot of great stuff on Facebook. So, yes, I still LIKE! but I shall proceed with more caution in the future. I advise you to do the same.


"Frosty" Peach and Prosciutto Bruschetta

Mystic Cheese Company makes amazing cheese. Chris and I first tried their cheese while talking to company founder and cheesemaker Brian Civitello on a tour of Graywall Farm, a dairy farm in Lebanon, Connecticut. While we went crazy over that cheese, a satiny, buttery, wonderfully meltable concoction known as Melville, Brian was explaining that he makes all of Mystic Cheese's cheese in two "cheese pods," shipping containers that he has set up on the farm. It is a fascinating and innovative idea and if you want to read more about it, this article or Mystic's own website both do a better job than I ever could.

Anyway, we fell in love with their cheese that day and when we found out they recently came out with a new cheese, we bought it as soon as we found it (at the Coventry Farmers' Market). It's called "Frost," and it has the texture of spreadable fudge, it stinks to high heaven, and it is very, very earthy. I could barely eat it straight, so I knew any recipe I used it in needed to be well-balanced.

I thought on it for about a week and then it came to me, just in time for Chris's birthday. The recipe calls for a nice mix of basic ingredients - bread, meat, cheese and fruit - and only takes about 5 or 6 minutes to make. And look how pretty and fancy they are!

"Frosty" Peach and Prosciutto Bruschetta
(makes 12)

1 medium sized baguette, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 package Mystic Cheese Co.'s Frost
6 slices prosciutto, torn in half
1 large peach, cut into thin slices
olive oil
balsamic glaze

Place the baguette slices on a cookie sheet and put under a high broiler to toast; remove from broiler when toasted to your liking. Spread each piece with a thin layer of Frost. Place 1/2 a slice of prosciutto on top of the cheese. Grill the peach slices on each side, just long enough to warm through and get grill marks, about 4 minutes total. Set the peach slices on top of the prosciutto. Drizzle the bruschetta with olive oil and balsamic glaze, and serve immediately.  


3 Times Thursday - Autumn Apples

For this week's 3 Times Thursday, enjoy autumn's best gift - apples! Fall in New England means it's time to head to your local orchard and do the "Twist and Pull!" And since it's cooler out, you won't mind turning on the oven to bake ones of these autumn apple favorites. 

3. Square Cider Donuts - Although this one doesn't use apples per se, it does use apple cider, and all the best local orchards will be selling theirs this month and next. Why square? Why not?!?

Makes 24 doughnuts plus 24 doughnut holes

canola oil for frying
1 egg
1 1/4 cup sugar, divided
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup apple cider
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flour
2 cups baking mix (we used Bisquick)

Preheat oil in a large pot, skillet or deep fryer to 375 degrees, checking the temperature often using a candy thermometer. Whisk together egg, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, cider and vanilla. Using a wooden spoon, stir in flour and baking mix. On floured surface, with floured hands, knead dough several times and roll to 1/2-inch thick.  Cut with a donut or biscuit cutter, and make holes in the center of each. Carefully drop into hot oil. Working in batches of six, cook until golden brown, flip, and cook other side until golden brown. Adjust the heat on the burner as necessary to keep the temperature steady at 375.  Drain on sheets of newspaper or paper towels. Mix together remaining 1 cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon; while doughnuts are still hot, coat in cinnamon-sugar. Eat while still warm!

2. Apple Pie - No apple dessert list would be complete without a recipe for classic apple pie. Or should we say, pie filling, since we cheat and use Pillsbury crust. 

1 package refrigerated pie crust, or homemade crust
10 apples, variety of your choosing, peeled, cored and diced
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons apple pie spice
2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon milk

Preheat oven to 425. Place one pie crust in an ungreased pie plate and press firmly against the side and bottom of the dish. In a large bowl, toss the diced apples with the lemon juice. In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients well. Pour the dry ingredients into the bowl with the apples and mix well so that all the apples are coated. Spoon the filling into the crust-lined pie plate. Cut the butter into pats and place randomly on top of the apple pie filling. Top with the second crust and press the edges together to seal (if using refrigerated pie crust, see package directions for a two-crust pie). Brush the crust with the milk. Cut slits in several places in the top crust and bake for 45 minutes, until apples are tender and the crust is brown. Cool for at least an hour before serving.

1. Onyx Moonshine Apple Cake - We soak our apples in our favorite local moonshine for 24 hours, then use a friend's apple cake recipe to make this boozy confection.

Cake Ingredients:
5 medium apples, peeled and diced (feel free to soak them in Onyx Moonshine for a day or so, if you dare)
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine all cake ingredients in a large bowl, and toss to coat apples. Place in a 9X13 pan that has been greased with butter or sprayed with cooking spray. In a separate bowl, combine topping ingredients and pat over top before placing in oven. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until bubbly. If desired, dust with confectioner's sugar before serving.


Simpaug Farms' Fall CSA

Amy's first writing assignment for Go Local Magazine was a feature on Simpaug Farms, a family-owned farm on 250 acres of preserved farmland in Suffield, Connecticut. You can read that article HERE (January 2016 Issue).

Many farms, including Simpaug, now sell shares of their crops. This is known as Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, and is essentially a pre-paid subscription to a farm's seasonal produce (veggies, herbs, flowers), and sometimes, meat and eggs. There are many excellent reasons to purchase a CSA, such as getting to know the farmer, having confidence and trust in exactly where your food is coming from, and gaining the satisfaction of supporting a local business. You may even enjoy the benefit of eating healthier, as your fridge will be automatically stocked with fresh, local, seasonal food.

You may wonder why we bring this up now, when the farming season, at least in Connecticut, is nearly at its end. Well, that is because while most farms sell Summer CSAs, Simpaug Farms is one of the few farms that has a Fall CSA. If you have never tried a CSA, and you're not sure if it's right for you, it makes sense to start with one that is shorter, and therefore a smaller investment. 

Simpaug Farms offers a lot of options for their CSAs. Fall CSAs can be purchased as weekly or biweekly shares, with or without eggs. There are also a variety of pick-up locations throughout the state. Options, dates, prices, locations and all other pertinent information (including an order form) can be found HERE. You can pay online for added convenience or you can sign up online and have an invoice mailed to you so you can pay by check.

We just purchased ours, choosing a Fall half-share (since we're a two-person household), with a dozen eggs added in, which means we will be picking up our share at the Ellington Farmers Market every other Saturday starting October 1st. We are very much looking forward to our very first CSA, and to enjoying the bounty of Simpaug Farms. 

Look for our fresh produce-inspired recipes starting in a few weeks!


Go Local Magazine - September 2016 Issue

The September issue of Go Local Magazine is out! Go Local is a local lifestyle magazine promoting life around the Massachusetts/Connecticut line. The magazine features nearby businesses where you can play, shop and eat, and showcases the citizens who make the region a great place to live. The newest issue is filled with people and places that are invigorating the Go Local area. It's a wonderful celebration of the fall season. And, for the first time ever, Go Local is "perfect bound" which means it has a flat spine like so many of the magazines you are used to! 

Of particular interest to our foodie followers might be A Couple in the Kitchen's own recipe for Late Summer Harvest Pasta 'Primavera' on page 57, or the article in which some local nutritionists advise people on how to makeover their lunchboxes, or the feature on Johnny Appleseed's Orchards of Ellington, CT. Amy wrote the article called "Happy Herd at Windy Crow Farm" about an alpaca farm in Stafford Springs. For those whose mind has gone "Back to School," there's an article featuring a teacher at Heritage Academy in Longmeadow. For the crafters, there's a new feature called "Go Create," with a inspiring DIY project. There's also a list of autumn fairs and festivals, a feature on Suffield's Woods Hollow Leather Co., and much, much more, all in the September issue.

You can read the current issue online here, or pick up your FREE copy today and Go Local!