Bagpipes and Bonfire

DSC_0418Each year when September comes to a close, Lake Forest families gather in celebration of autumn and our community’s dedication to preserving open land.  Set against the serene backdrop of Middlefork Farm Nature Preserve, this year’s Bagpipes and Bonfire included Highland games, fiddling, fly casting, wagon rides and a delicious harvest dinner.  As the sun began to set, a 100 member bagpipe and drum band performed until one piper summited a giant brush mound in the center of the field.  The crowd was still as he played a chill inducing version of Amazing Grace, and after the last notes were played, the band marched off with drums beating in unison as the twilight bonfire was lit.

DSC_0111 DSC_0169DSC_0257 DSC_0197 DSC_0350 DSC_0391 DSC_0437 DSC_0524 DSC_0548_2 DSC_0602 DSC_0639Funds raised from Bagpipes and Bonfire support Lake Forest Open Lands Association, an environmental education and advocacy group that maintains over 800 acres of open space in our community.

The Weekend Kitchen: Apple Dumplings

DSC_0866Apple dumplings hold a special place in my heart.  My Grandmother Porter, of German descent and a product of the Depression Era, could not stand to waste a thing.  Her cooking was simple, hearty, and utterly delicious, and everything she made was from memory, learned no doubt from watching her mother and grandmother.  During her long stays with us she roasted chickens, creamed cabbage, made beef stroganoff, mashed lots of potatoes, and baked.  Baking was what she loved most.DSC_0891DSC_0939DSC_0924When she baked apple pie, bits of dough were often leftover.  Tossing them out would have been wasteful, so she cobbled these bits together, stretched them over a quickly peeled apple, and baked it alongside the pie.  This was a great treat because you didn’t have the unbearably long wait until after dinner to cut into the pie!  Apple dumplings were green lighted for after-school snacks, devoured just out of the oven.

Peeled and coated in lemon juice, cinnamon, sugar, and dark flecks of allspice.
Peeled and coated in lemon juice, zest, cinnamon, sugar, and dark flecks of allspice.

This is my version of apple dumplings, though I add butter to my crust which she never would have done (she used shortening only as shortening makes the most tender crust).  I love the combination because it delivers buttery-flaky goodness but remains tender from the addition of shortening.

Wrapped in dough blankets and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, waiting to go in the oven.
Wrapped in their dough blankets, waiting to go in the oven.

Apple Dumplings

makes 8

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup shortening, chilled and diced into small pieces
  • 11 tablespoons butter, chilled until very cold and diced into small pieces
  • 4-6 tablespoons ice water
  • 8 small apples (I used Cortland, Granny Smiths are great)
  • 1 lemon, zested then juiced
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 2 tablespoons butter, diced into 8 pieces
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  1. Butter a rectangular baking dish that generously fits 8 apples.  Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, add flour, sugar, salt, and pulse a few times until combined.  Add cold butter and shortening, pulsing until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Through the feed tube, add one tablespoon of ice water at a time, stopping immediately when dough comes together in a ball.
  3. Turn dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap, flatten into a disc and thoroughly wrap in plastic.  Chill for at least one-half hour.
  4. While dough is chilling, add lemon juice to a large bowl.  Peel and core apples, tossing each in the lemon juice as soon as you’ve peeled it.  Sprinkle lemon zest over apples and stir to combine.
  5. Combine sugar, cinnamon, and allspice in a small bowl.  Set aside 2 tablespoons of mixture for sprinkling over pastry.
  6. Pour sugar mixture over apples, coating each one thoroughly including the centers.
  7. When dough is thoroughly chilled, remove from fridge and and roll out on a well floured surface, turning disc every few rolls to prevent sticking.  When dough has been rolled  into 1/8 to 1/4-inch thickness, cut 6-in diameter rounds until you have 8.  I used a 6-in diameter bowl and cut around it with a knife, but you can free form it.  This is rustic at its best!
  8. One at a time, place each apple in the center of a dough round and wrap.  Set in buttered baking dish.
  9. Press a square of diced butter into each hole.
  10. Using a pastry brush, brush each dough covered apple with the lightly beaten egg and sprinkle with reserved sugar mixture.
  11. Bake for 45-55 minutes, until crust is golden and apples are tender. DSC_0013


DSC_0690Give me the splendid silent sun with all his beams full-dazzling,

Give me juicy autumnal fruit ripe and red from the orchard,

Give me a field where the unmowed grass grows…

– excerpt from Walt Whitman’s Give Me the Splendid Silent SunapplesDSC_0815fieldsDSC_0702apples+tractorDSC_0695_2Our family made its annual trip to the orchard in Wisconsin where we have picked apples and pumpkins for the last nine years.   We couldn’t have custom ordered a more magnificent day for taking a hay ride, gathering apples, and enjoying hot cider and doughnuts.  Ida Reds, Macouns, Granny Smiths, Cortlands, and Jonathans now sit in two overflowing half-bushels on my kitchen counter.  I can’t wait for the first crisp to come out of the oven, filling our house with the scent of warm apples and cinnamon!

Sunday Suppers with Bea of La Tartine Gourmande


A few weeks ago I had the absolute pleasure of attending a photography and food styling workshop taught by Béa Peltre of La Tartine Gourmande fame.  It took place over two days in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, much of it at the envy inducing Sunday Suppers space (I don’t think a single person left not wishing they could move into that fabulous light-filled loft!).  We shopped together at the McCarren Park Greenmarket, prepared meals, took gazillions of pictures, bombarded Béa with questions, and closed the weekend with a delicious, seasonal picnic lunch.  Not only did I come away with more applicable knowledge than I thought possible in one weekend, I spent two wonderful days with a group of women who enjoyed talking photography and food (and eating!) as much as I do.  picniccollageimage one: late summer offerings from the McCarren Park Greenmarket. image two: lunch at Sunday Suppers, clockwise from left – heirloom tomato and nectarine salad with herbs, greens, and fresh mozzarella; lime-coconut milk rice pudding with stewed stone fruits; bucatini with mixed herb pesto

Summers to Remember

644_1108542276121_1303757050_330342_5091_nAnother summer has come to a close.  Looking back over the years, I am most nostalgic for the summers spent sailing with my grandparents in Canada.

My sister Kathy, Grandpa, and me at the helm circa 1976.
My sister Kathy, Grandpa, and me at the helm circa 1976.

  Our journeys always began in Penetanguishene, Ontario, where we would gather provisions and fish from the docks while our grandfather readied our boat, Mañana.  Our grandmother would stow bags of buckwheat flour, baskets of oranges for juicing and eating, peanut butter, honey, homemade bread, and cornmeal for crusting and frying catches of the day.  Milk was stored in the freezer (so delicious with its icy shards when paired with our peanut butter and honey sandwiches!) along with emergency meals for the days we hooked nothing but bottom.

Kath with our grandparents.
Kath with our grandparents.

Leaving port was always filled with excitement!  When the lines that bound our boat to the dock cleats were tossed on deck and bumpers were hauled aboard, we would motor out of the marina onto Georgian Bay.  I remember the smell of Manana’s diesel engine and the eager anticipation of cutting the motor and unfurling her sails.   How I loved watching land drift further and further away until it was out of sight!  This meant there was no turning back and I could finally enjoy the thrilling juxtaposition of our boat’s intimate quarters against sailing on open, unprotected waters.

Kathy in the hammock  and our cousin Robin on the canoe, soaking up sunshine.
Kathy in the hammock and I on the canoe, soaking up sunshine.

We sailed during the day, passing time with backgammon matches, boat songs and turns at the helm, then anchored at night, staying a day or two in one of the protected coves my grandparents had named after each of their grandchildren.  The moments of navigating our boat through the narrow, rocky passage ways to reach our secret coves were often fraught with tension.  I recall being confused at how they could yell at each other while anchoring but then be so calm and loving afterward.  They contended that it wasn’t “yelling” if you were on a boat – it was simply “speaking with urgency.”

Days were filled with blueberry picking (for my grandmother’s buckwheat pancakes), fishing, swimming, canoeing, exploring, and napping or reading in the bow hammock.  After dinner we would play cards or tile rummy and look over the next day’s nautical charts.  Many nights ended with time in the cockpit marveling at the stars while our grandfather taught us constellation names.  Their brilliance against the black of night is something I still dream of today.

Fishing with my grandmother.
Fishing with my grandmother.
Kath and our mom with Northern.
Kath and our mom with Northern.

Baths were taken in the bay with a bar of Ivory, chosen for its inability to sink.  I can still feel the cold water inching up my legs as I eased down our boat’s ladder.  If the temperature was unbearable, my grandmother would pour buckets of water into the dinghy and let the sun warm it before washing our hair.

Braving the cold Canadian waters for a quick dip!
Braving the cold Canadian waters for a quick dip!
A dinghy bath.  It's the only swimsuit I remember her wearing!
A dinghy bath. It’s the only swimsuit I remember her wearing!

Every trip had a different crew, with parents, cousins, and my Aunt Sally all taking turns.

Clockwise from top left: Robin, Kathy, Rod, and me, rocking the Jordache sweatshirt circa 1983..
Clockwise from top left: Robin, Kathy, Rod, and me, rocking the Jordache sweatshirt circa 1983.
Canoeing with my cousin Rod.
Canoeing with my cousin Rod.

Save for one year, Kathy was always with me.  I can close my eyes now and see her curled up in a sleeping bag with a book on her favorite starboard bunk.  She cherishes those summers just as I do, and we dream of returning, together with our families, someday.

Kath and me.
Kath and me.

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