Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog

This is really a salamander

This is really a frog (in Maine)

Ah cooking!  A science not unlike alchemy.  One takes the ingredients, blends them together and hopes for a dish that the family will like.  Moms feeding children have an easier time than I do.  They can set rules: “No veggies; no dessert.”  “Try a little of everything on your plate.”  “Eat or else.”  (I’ve had all those rules.)  But feeding adults is more problematic.  I can’t take away dessert or the television.  To complicate matters, the adults in my house have both dietary restrictions and dietary wishes.  One parent needs to be gluten free but wants to eat dishes that traditionally contain gluten—like bread and pasta.  One section in my freezer is just for gluten free items that are traditionally made with wheat.  Before my parents moved in, I was given a list of things they could not eat.  The list grew longer after they arrived.  After a while, I realized that it was really a list of things that one of them would not eat.  My youngest daughter has cooked professionally—so her ideas and mine differ on how things should be prepared.  She likes more salt than I use (some vs none).  And my husband’s cholesterol is up:  time to cut back on the red meat.  Some days I feel like I am running a diner, not cooking for a family.

My transcontinental move complicates meals as well.  I can no longer go to the Sunday farmer’s market and buy fresh asparagus.  Asparagus in the stores here comes from Peru.  Artichokes still come from Half Moon Bay.  Figs are imported from southern California.  Should I worry about my carbon footprint?  I have spent the summer experimenting with the produce grown at The Pickin Patch, a small farm a few miles from my house.

This farm is the tenth oldest farm in Connecticut, advertising “family farming since 1666” (http://www.thepickinpatch.com).  Until the 1970s, the farm produced shade tobacco.  After a disastrous rainy season ruined the crop, the owner scattered thirty-five dollars of pumpkin seeds in the fields and a new business model sprouted.  They sold directly to the public, allowing people to pick their own vegetables or buy ones already harvested.

In the spring, I bought baskets of flowers to set in my yard.  Starting in June, I bought vegetables.  At first I would pick spinach, chard and beets.  I learned how to cut the heads of lettuce.   I missed the strawberries, but picked raspberries in August.  Tomatoes came from their green house.  Corn grew in the fields by the river and is picked fresh each day.  They carried potatoes and garlic from a farm in Granby, a few miles down the road and blueberries and peaches from farms in Glastonbury, twenty minutes away.  This is a contrast from my local farmer’s market where some of the vendors drove an hour from Ventura County and some drove three or four hours from Modesto and Fresno.

leeks. I used them in potato-leek soup and pork and apple stew.

I began to plan my meals around the vegetables.  When okra was in season, I tried four different dishes—gumbo was the family favorite.  When they had cranberry beans, I bought them along with green and wax beans to make a three bean salad.  I should have bought more to make a chili.   I bought roma tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini to make a spaghetti sauce from scratch.  We had corn on the cob and corn salsa. (For a good salsa recipe, check out my friend’s blog: thekalechronicles.com).   If I had a freezer, I would have bought even more corn.  The fall squashes are in so last night I made acorn squash stuffed with quinoa, which, surprisingly, everyone liked.  Right now they have pumpkins and hay rides.  Next year I am taking my grandson to pick veggies.

tomatoes, ground beef, onion

The farm sells a variety of peppers.  One of the few dishes I remember from my childhood was stuffed bell peppers.   I thought it would make my parents happy if I made it.   I bought green bell peppers, onions, and roma tomatoes.  I always have white rice (I prefer brown but two family members can’t eat it.)  I bought lean ground beef at the grocery store.   The herbs grow in pots on my deck.  Soon I will have to bring them in.

Here are my ingredients:

1 onion, chopped

6 green bell peppers

8 roma tomatoes

1 ½ lb ground beef

1 ½ cup uncooked rice

Salt, pepper to taste

A handful of basil leaves

Four thyme springs

Three oregano sprigs


Cook rice according to directions.  I use my indispensable rice cooker.  (Mom says that she put uncooked rice in the peppers.  Maybe she used minute rice.)

Heat oven to 350

Cut tops off bell pepers and remove seeds and membranes.  Heat several quarts of water in a large pot.  Boil peppers for about seven minutes or until they soften.

In another pot, heat a quart of water.  Put the tomatoes in the boiling water for two or three minutes to loosen skins.  Remove.  Peel skins.  Chop.  Set aside.  (Or use canned tomatoes or spaghetti sauce.)

Place onion and ground beef in skillet.  Brown.

Add tomatoes.  Add herbs.  Simmer five minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add rice.  Spoon into peppers.

Bake twenty minutes.

This recipe is very time consuming.  I can see why it is not as popular as it once was.  Nostalgia takes time.

About theonceandfutureemptynest

Transitions! Every couple has them: First newlyweds; then parents, then empty nesters. After raising three girls, our nest was empty--just my husband, myself, and three dogs. I taught English to middle school and high school students; my husband was a corporate drudge. Life was good. We went on vacations, had romantic dinners, and enjoyed the peace and quiet. Then a daughter came home. We relocated from California to Connecticut and found ourselves on new adventures.
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3 Responses to Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog

  1. Ginny says:

    I remember Chris and I picking our own fruits and veggies either out of our organic garden when we lived in Northridge or at “U Pick ‘Em” farms before Simi was a ‘burb. Canned all my own sauces and jams………..boy, I thought I was Laura Ingalls for several years! Please, I beg of you to take photos of the trips to the market; I am living vicariously through your adventures of this first year. Oddly, just yesterday I bought bell peppers to stuff for dinner one night this week and I am delighted you shared your recipe because I had forgotten the par-boiling of the peppers prior to stuffing. Love the posts……………..so look forward to them.

    • I thought about canning tomatoes. I canned apricots one year in northern California and then was afraid to eat them. I’ll get some photos of the farm the next time I go. And seriously, come visit next fall. We have a guest room.

  2. It is challenging to cook for one person with restrictions, Maura, let alone two: sometimes all three of the adults here eat different things at meals. At a certain point I cook things I like (like the fig and arugula pizza!) and if they don’t like it, “all the more for me,” as they say. By the way, an egg carton makes a perfect storage container for figs or other small fruit and takes up less room in the fridge than other containers — thought of that this morning. Not that you’ll be seeing figs any time soon…

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