Sutter’s Fort Gingersnaps

Sutter's Fort GingersnapsHoldin’ Down The Fort

Sometimes you don’t realize how good you have it until you don’t. Yesterday my daughter and I participated in a program that 4th graders at her school get a chance to do every year. We were part of the Suttter’s Fort ELP program, which basically means we become the museum.

For almost 3 months, the kids have been studying the history of the fort and its occupants. Each child is given their own identity, and is required to research that person’s history at the fort. The kids wear costumes the whole time, and participate in activities that would have normally happened at the fort: like weaving, candle making and cooking.

In order for the kids to do all this great stuff, a parent has to volunteer to help out and/or run one of the activities—and be in period costume as well. I chose to run the bakery. (I figured I’d stick with my strengths.) Baking bread in a beehive oven is no easy task. It’s an all-day affair, and I have have a new appreciation for my oven, and my dishwasher, and lets not forget the washing machine…

I can’t even imagine the amount of back-breaking work required just to survive as a settler at that time. If just baking the bread took all day, how long would it take to do everything else? And don’t get me started on laundry. I get why bathing and clothes washing only happened monthly. Yes. Monthly.

Our pioneers did know how to enjoy life, and all of the hard work made for some great get-togethers with music and neighbors. They danced, they laughed and they ate tasty treats like these gingersnap cookies we made in the oven yesterday after the bread was done.

Sutter’s Fort Gingersnaps
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Charro Beans

Charro BeansThe Great Southwest

Whenever the weather gets warm, my taste buds automatically go on a road trip through the southwest. It’s a strange phenomenon. The minute the mercury hits 85º, I’ve got chilies on my mind, and margaritas in my hand. Cumin and lime juice find their way into everything I make.

I have often said that I can eat Mexican food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner—then wash, rinse repeat. But I also love Tex-Mex and New Mexican cuisine. (Nope. They are not the same thing.) Tex-Mex is mainly about larger cuts of meat, mostly pork and beef with a little chicken thrown in for good measure, and usually grilled. In New Mexican cuisine the chilies reign supreme…so much so that the question “Red or Green?” is almost the state motto…

Needless to say these past few days of warm weather have been somewhat spicy. I’ve been doing a lot of grilling ‘cause it’s fast, and there’s been a lot of baseball, so fast is bueno.

I try (key word, try) to have some side dishes prepared ahead of time, so that we’re not just eating slabs of meat in tortillas. (Though I am totally cool with that). Beans are a favorite in all forms. Refried. Black. Ranchero, or these yummy things.

Feel free to experiment with bean varieties though stay with the larger ones for best results.

Charro Beans
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Lemon Rosemary Cornish Game Hens

Cornish Game HenMiss Manners

Lately, I have been thinking about table manners. I’d like to believe that I handle myself pretty well at the table. I know where my napkin goes, I know which fork to use, and I try not to talk with my mouth full. (I’m a mom. Sometimes you gotta say what you gotta say, even if you just took a bite!) I am confident that I will not embarrass myself or others when we go out to eat. As for my kids?

I noticed that my kids lack a certain basic knowledge when it comes to eating at the dinner table. Just to be clear, it’s not like they are total savages. They do know the proper way. But, it was while watching my son eat his dinner, crouched on the bench seat like Gollum from Lord of The Rings, that I realized perhaps a refresher course is in order.

When I was a kid, we went out to dinner relatively frequently—and when I say out to dinner I mean white tablecloths not “Do you want fries with that?” Dining out was how we celebrated birthdays and special occasions, and my sister and I were expected to act accordingly. It wasn’t always easy. The biggest test was when my dad’s parents were in town and we had to go to a place we called The Morgue. It was a white table cloth kind of club for, shall we say, an older generation—and not, frankly, an appropriate place to bring your young children for dinner.

Kids are going to be kids. Of course my Dad wasn’t always helpful. He once gave my very young cousin a Fireman’s Helmet with a siren as a gift for his birthday during dinner there. You should have seen the reaction when my cousin lit off that siren! It’s amazing how marble can amplify sound. Still makes me laugh.

The short version of the story is that I learned good table manners early on and I have apparently been remiss in the education of my children, at least as it pertains to the less well-known stuff. If I asked them the difference between a salad fork and a shrimp fork I would get a blank stare, but they do know the difference between a salad fork and a dinner fork. Baby steps.

Certain foods can be difficult for anyone. Case in point: Game Hens. On a recent outing for my Mother’s birthday, my daughter and I both ordered the roasted game hen for dinner. It was very tasty. It was also a challenge to eat without flinging food everywhere. We muscled through it, and I later found myself looking online for the proper way to eat a game hen which put me back on the manners thing.

I’m starting a Manners Boot Camp at home and this is the first lesson…

Lemon Rosemary Cornish Game Hens
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Salmon Skewers à la Amy

Salmon skewersSpring Broken

We had a great Spring Break: we saw Boston, we saw Gettysburg, we saw D.C. It was ten days of non-stop activity—and now, I hurt. I think we must have walked at least 20 miles. (That may or may not be an exaggeration). We saw some really amazing things, but our feet and legs are paying the price…and we’re still on east coast time.

I am looking a mountain of laundry in the face; I’ve no energy to even bother with it. And don’t even get me started on cooking dinner. The problem with dinner is that we over-indulged while away, so it’s time to start eating better. Simple and healthy is the mantra for this week. Last night we grilled salmon. It’s easy, it’s versatile, it’s healthy, and its tasty anytime, but especially mid-week.

There are many recipes out there for Salmon Skewers, and this is my own take. You can do teriyaki, blackened (Cajun) style, miso glazed…whatever floats your boat. Same goes for whatever you choose to thread in between the pieces of salmon or you could go full on protein and just do the salmon.

My favorite version is the one below that uses the Napa Valley Spice Rub from Whole Spice that we carry here at the store. (Check out our Spice Section.) Great for warm weather dinners!

Salmon Skewers à la Amy
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