Sunday, May 10, 2020

Salad Days


garden salad in a while bowl on a brown table





It was my first job. I was 15 years old. My boss yelled at me everyday. She yelled at everyone. All Day Long. The restaurant was insanely busy in the summertime with tourists trying to make the ferry over to Martha's Vineyard and loud with the excitement and stressed out energy of families on vacation. I barely had time to use the bathroom during a 12 hour long shift. I drank Diet Coke and ate oyster crackers that I kept in my apron pocket to keep my stomach from growling. There were no breaks. Ever. Until you punched out. I went back day after day because my parents would have killed me if I didn't. Plus, my mother drove me to work.

When I was finally told that my shift was over and I could leave, I ran out the door, down the street to the payphone on the corner to call my mother to pick me up. I was so glad to be out of that building, away from the yelling, the noise, the smell of french fries, coffee and bleach. It took at least 30 minutes after I called for her to arrive in Woods Hole, driving down the hill and turning the corner in front of the drug store. I sat on the big rock next to the phone booth, watching, waiting for the yellow station wagon with the faux wood paneling and the ceiling my mother fixed herself by stapling it back into place. Each silver staple perfectly spaced so that it looked intentional, like it was part of the original design. 

I worked really hard at that job. Bussing tables as fast as I possibly could. Clearing the sticky dishes covered in maple syrup, refilling the sugar packets, making another pot of coffee, wiping down the glass tops, pushing in the chairs. Competing with myself, getting faster and faster, more efficient: anticipating, checking the bathrooms before being reminded, trying to think of everything so I wouldn't get screamed at. Somehow, I began to like the sense of accomplishment. But the intensity of the day always came out in a flood of tears as soon as I climbed into the car and closed the door.

The cooks started calling me, "Speed Queen", then, "Speedo" and sometimes just shortened the nick-name to, "Speed" because I did my job so fast powered by adrenaline from fear and teenage energy.  I didn't react to anything they said, just brought them Cokes with lemon and pint glasses of ice water when they asked. I was a little scared of them, too. They were older than me, in college. 

One Friday afternoon in the middle of the summer, my boss' husband, quiet but still imposing, told me to come into the kitchen. We were winding down in the dining room, cleaning and setting up before the dinner rush. I was sure he was going to tell me that I was doing something wrong, maybe fire me. When his wife was really, really angry, she stopped screaming and yelling and sent him to convey her angry message. Not only was I about to be humiliated, my mother would definitely kill me when she picked me up, having to drive all the way to Woods Hole to get her daughter who got canned for doing a terrible job.

I made my way through the swinging doors and into the lion's den. The kitchen was small, bright, bustling with energy that urged, "Get the prep done now or we are screwed!" He told me I was going to make the garden salads. You know the ones that come in a bamboo bowl: iceberg, shredded purple cabbage, 2 cherry tomatoes, 2 slices cucumber, a ring of red onion, a ring of green pepper and maybe a canned black olive, if you are lucky? That was it. He needed my help. 
He calmly showed me how he wanted the salads to look and asked me to make 60 of them: 5 sheet pans of 12 salads, each. Then, bring each one through the swinging doors, up the stairs, down the hallway and store it in the walk-in. Make them look good. Dinner starts in an hour.

I was terrified that I would mess it all up. 

I worked the salad and dessert station on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights for the rest of the summer. Bussing tables during breakfast and lunch wearing a blue apron in the front of house, then changing into a red apron to work in the kitchen through the evening service. Baptized by fire on a hot summer day, pulled onto the "Red Team" out of necessity, allowed to stay because I kept my mouth shut and my hands moving. I worked in that restaurant for seven summers, through high school and part of college. I got tougher and grew a thick skin, no longer crying everyday on the ride home from work. My boss stopped yelling and screaming at me.  I must have passed her test. She moved on to new members of the dining room staff, who often quit because they didn't have parents who told them, "This is how it is in a restaurant. It's stressful, people yell. Let it roll off your back." This may seem like harsh parenting. But through the years, my first "professional" kitchen experience has made me realize that ranting bosses are usually their own worst enemies and being able to focus on crafting something as simple as a garden salad in the middle of the frenzy on an insanely busy Saturday in July are lessons that I have been using all my adult life.


Simple Garden Salad
(makes one)

1 1/2 cups chopped iceberg lettuce
1/4  cup shredded red cabbage
4 cherry tomatoes or 2 wedges from a medium sized tomato
4 slices cucumber 
1 ring cut from the center of a whole green or red pepper
1-2 rings sliced red onion
4 black olives
1 pepperoncini

salad dressing of choice: Italian, Ranch, Peppercorn Parmesan, Balsamic Vinaigrette, Blue Cheese*

Place lettuce and red cabbage in a small bowl. Toss gently. Strategically place tomato around edges of lettuce mixture. Place cucumbers in the same manner. Place pepper and onion rings on the center of the lettuce mixture. Place black olives in between tomatoes and cucumbers. Place pepperoncini in the center of the red onion rings, as the crowning center of the salad. Enjoy with dressing.

*May cost extra



















 

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Rainy Day Beef Stew


  While digging around in my blog vault, I came across this unpublished post. Although it's from seven years ago (February 2013), and I now have an exciting and fulfilling job, during these uncertain days, it's a reminder that things can always get better and comfort food always helps.


beef stew in a white bowl with a slice of bread and butter

  I've been having a pity party lately. Actually, it's been going on for about 3 months now. I spend my days wracking my brain, trying to find a job that suits me, my schedule (kids), that is fun and brings in a decent amount of money for my time. Working on my resume, psyching myself up, trolling the internet, reconnecting with former colleagues...it's an exhausting roller coaster ride of emotion. Then it's time to cook dinner.
  Although there are times when I don't feel like coming up with something to make, once I get myself into the kitchen and begin working, I suddenly feel that I have regained some sense of control over my life again. Even when I feel like there is no hope of finding a job, of making things work, at least I have the confidence that I can produce a good meal, that is enjoyable not only to me but to the people I'm cooking it for as well.
  That's exactly how I felt last Friday after a long week of trying to figure out my life. The kids were home on school vacation so between refereeing their fights and getting them out the door to the library, public skating, to a friend's house to play, and finishing Ava's science project, it wasn't really an ideal time to come up with a new fabulous career idea. I was frustrated with myself and at the end of my rope with the kids. I took a break and watched some mindless t.v. before getting out of my pajamas and getting on the with day.
  "Slow Cooker" week on Rachael Ray....whoo-hoo! as I lay on my bed, half looking out the window at the dreary weather, half watching the show, the creative wheels in my head began to creak into motion. I came up with the brilliant idea to use the Crock-Pot to make a hearty stew. At least this was a mission I could motivate myself to get behind. Some good basic ingredients plus heat almost always yield the results I want, something delicious to eat and share with others.
  It's funny I never realized that the kitchen has been my place of comfort for so many years. In college, after my dearest friend died, I cooked chili and bread from scratch every week and ate all of the meals that I prepared for myself at the tiny kitchen table by the window in our basement apartment that I shared with two other girls. Later, while living in Boston on a (frayed) shoe string budget, most nights I made it home from working in the mall after 8:00pm but I always managed to whip up some eggs with salsa and cheddar cheese, my own version of comfort food in a neat little omelet. Now especially when I feel I have no control over what life has to offer, I turn to the stove. Baking chocolate chip cookies, kneading bread, chopping vegetables, these are things that restore my sense of stability and help me to relax. When nothing appears to be going my way, at least the oven still works, the sugar tastes sweet and a hot meal reminds me that tomorrow is another day.

kitchen window covered in snow


Rainy Day Beef Stew
(Serves 6)

Ingredients:
2 lbs. stew beef, cut into 1 inch pieces
salt and pepper
3-4 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons flour
6 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
2 medium stalks celery, thinly sliced
2 medium onions, diced
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 cup beef stock
1 cup red wine
3 oz. tomato paste (1/2 of a small can)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried mustard
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

  Dry meat with paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Divide meat into 3 batches. Toss one batch of meat into skillet and sear on all sides. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of flour. Pour beef and juices into Crock-Pot. Repeat with remaining two batches.  Add 1 teaspoon oil  to the skillet and cook carrots  for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Place carrots in Crock-Pot. Cook  celery and onions until softened, season with salt and pepper and add to Crock-Pot. Add 1-2 teaspoons oil to skillet and cook mushrooms for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Place mushrooms in Crock-Pot.  Place pan back on heat and add beef broth and wine, stirring and scraping the pan to loosen any cooked bits from the bottom. Clean pan with this process and pour entire contents into Crock-Pot. Add tomato paste, thyme and mustard and stir entire contest of Crock-Pot to distribute ingredients.    Cook stew on high for 3 hours, then on low for one hour until meat is tender. Alternately, cook stew on low for 8 hours. Once cooking is complete, to thicken juices, mix one tablespoon cornstarch with one tablespoon cool water and add to stew. Stir to incorporate. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  Add vinegar, stir and cook for 5 more minutes before serving over mashed potatoes or with a slice of bread.



Saturday, March 14, 2020

Never Too Old For Cupcakes



a plate of chocolate cupcakes with white frosting and orange sprinkles

  How old is too old to have a birthday party? Is it o.k.to want your mom to make cupcakes and to have your friends over for a bowling party when you are a 14 year old boy? Personally, I don't think anyone should ever grow out of the Birthday Party phase. Not ever. I hope my kids never do.
  Declan and I have a ritual. If we are both home in the evening, meaning if he doesn't have  basketball practice, a baseball game or some other activity after dinner, we watch a show on t.v. together. But not just any random show that may be broadcast that given night or something that is popular to binge watch on Prime or Netflix. Our show is carefully selected and must adhere to a strict criteria.  It must be light yet sprinkled with dramatic moments. It must have run for at least three seasons to be worth our time investment and capture our attention. It must have a serial element to it so that a cliff hanger is presented at the end of each episode compelling us to watch a second one in the same sitting.  And it must star a recognizable but not super famous female lead. 
  This is our not so secret shared guilty pleasure. And Declan isn't shy about it. He has actually had discussions with his friends about his healthy addiction to "Heart of Dixie" and "Gilmore Girls". Maybe it's cool to be into these dramedies set in small towns inhabited by quirky characters with their themes of relationships and farce. But I don't think so. Perhaps it's just ironically funny to him. But I know the real secret, the one he doesn't say out loud in public and it's my favorite part of our t.v. watching time together. While I am sitting on the couch, glass of wine in hand, ready for some small town drama; he is not too old to lean against me for the entire 40 minutes, or so, at least at this moment in time. It's not a full on snuggle like a little boy might want from his mom, it's the early teenage version. We are on the cusp of him growing up and leaving his childhood behind. While I will never be ready for this to finally happen, he will be someday, likely sooner than later.
  Most of the time, our relationship takes the shape of a typical mother-son dynamic. I am aware that I shouldn't go in for a hug in public. When I am driving him and a friend home from school, he talks with a sarcastic edge: just cool and distant enough to show the outside world that he is tough and grown-up. But when he puts on those fleece pj bottoms with the Celtics logos printed all over the fabric, the ones that have suddenly become three inches too short, along with his fuzzy socks and says in his recently deepened voice, "Mom, Gilmore Girls?", I know he is still my little boy.
  Even though next year he may say he doesn't want me to make cupcakes, I am still going to bake them and frost them and decorate them with orange sprinkles (his favorite color). I will not stop baking cupcakes on his birthday and I hope he never wants to stop watching bad t.v. in his pajamas on the couch with me.

  This chocolate cake and frosting recipe is a combination of a few found on the internet and the cake on the back of the Hershey's Cocoa can. It makes one large cake or 24 cupcakes. (Fill lined cups 2/3 full with batter.)


Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
(makes one 8 inch layer cake)
Cake:
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder such as Hershey's Cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon instant coffee
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup oil (canola, etc.)
3/4 cup boiling water

  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line the bottoms of two 8 inch cake pans with parchment paper (cut to fit). 
  In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: sugar, flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, baking soda and instant coffee. In a smaller bowl, combine eggs, buttermilk, vanilla and oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Gently stir in the boiling water. Pour batter into cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Begin checking cake at 28-30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans onto wire rack and allow to cool completely before frosting and decorating.

Frosting:
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (softened)
1/2 cup Crisco
3 cups powdered sugar 
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tsp vanilla
1-3 tablespoons milk

Place butter and Crisco in the bowl of a stand mixer. Combine. Add sugar in three parts, combining between each addition. Add salt and vanilla. Combine. Slowly add milk by the tablespoon and combine well until a spreadable consistency is achieved.

To frost and decorate:
Sprinkles, sugar decorations, candy

  Level each cake with a knife. (Save scraps for snacking!) Spread frosting on top of one layer, place the second on top. Top cake with a large amount of frosting. Smooth it over the top and down the sides. Add sprinkles and other decorations before frosting dries.







Saturday, December 21, 2019

Oh Glittery, Felt Christmas Tree!




 When I was in the first grade, I made the best Christmas gift of all time.  At least, I thought so.  I was so proud of it for many years until it slowly became a bit of nostalgia, as I grew up.  
  We cut the palm sized green felt trees out with dull safety scissors.  The metal kind that dug into soft, fleshy child hands.  I followed the black marker outline as closely as humanly possible with those dull scissors, concentrating and trying my best to get into the corners so the tree would have triangular edges instead of resembling an oddly shaped oval.  I am sure the cutting out process took an entire afternoon as my fellow classmates likely did not have the privilege of practicing at home with their mothers' very sharp sewing scissors and odd scraps of fabric.  Whereas I spent long hours after school making doll clothes and outfits for the cat using Val's special scissors.
  After what seemed like days later, the cutting out finally completed, we were instructed to place a tiny dot of Elmer's Glue on the back of the tree.  Once this glue drop was placed in the correct location, our teacher stopped at each of our desks, to place a small safety pin horizontally over the glue.  We were told not to touch the trees again until tomorrow and to take care when putting up our chairs as the final bell rang.  "The glue will dry overnight, " she said.  I knew this to be true having used loads of Elmer's on the fore mentioned doll and cat clothes.  However, some of my lesser experienced classmates where skeptical.
  The next morning, the best day of the project arrived, when I could unleash all of my creativity.  As our teacher walked slowly around the classroom placing bottles of glue and containers of multi colored glitter to be shared in groups, I couldn't wait to get my hands on them before they might be squandered by less restrained students.  I was ready to show the world my design style that would mirror the artistry of our teacher's demo glittery felt tree.  Hers was decorated with  perfect swags of glitter with a dot at the top signalling a star.  It was expertly crafted, but I was confident that I could copy it.  
  I squeezed the glue bottle upside down, in both my hands, willing the wet goo into the exact places to emphasize the look of garland.  I almost had to wait too long for the glitter to be finally passed to me, fearing the glue would dry too quickly and the right amount of glitter would not adhere.    I was nervous, this was a masterpiece to be presented to my mother.  I wanted it to be the best gift under the tree.  As our teacher raised her cheery voice and said, "Not to worry about too much glue, it will dry clear!" for those who got a little messy, I felt elated as I looked down on my creation, in my mind having made a beautiful gem that my mother would be sure to praise and cherish as she opened it up on Christmas morning along with all of the other less significant gifts.
  It seemed like forever to wait for a day or so for the glue and glitter to be ready to be packaged up and carefully sent home on the last day of school before the holiday break.  I am not sure if I had help boxing and wrapping my tiny treasure, perhaps my older sister had a hand in that.  But looking at the felt tree pin, so many, many years later, the glitter having worn off, the felt softened with wear, I am still reminded of the excitement of giving this handmade gift to my mother and the pride and happiness every time she took the pin out of the safe keeping of her jewelry box to wear it again, year after year on Christmas day.

  These cookies are an homage to the glittery, felt tree pin.  I used a classic recipe that Val has been making for years.


Cut Out Sugar Cookies with Frosting
(makes about 3 dozen according to the size of the cookie cutter)


For the cookies:
3/4 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 3/4 cups flour (plus extra for rolling out)

  In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar.  Add the eggs and vanilla.  Add baking powder and salt, mix to combine.  Slowly add the flour until well incorporated.  Separate dough into two pieces, flatten into discs, wrap in plastic and place in refrigerator for at least an hour.
  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  On a lightly floured board, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out small pieces of chilled dough and cut out using floured cookie cutters.  Place on lined cookie sheets and bake for 8-10 minutes until cookies look dry and  edges just begin to turn golden.  Remove cookies to cooling racks and allow to cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting:
1/4 cup softened butter
3 cups powdered sugar
4-6 tablespoons milk (plus a little more to make this version a bit runny)
1 teaspoon vanilla
green food coloring
edible glitter

  In a mixing bowl, cream butter until smooth.  Add sugar and milk alternately until desired creaminess is reached. Add vanilla and mix well. (This frosting should be a little runny to make the soft edges of the tree and allow enough time to adhere glitter decoration.)  Add green food coloring a few drops at a time until desired color is established.  Spread frosting on cookie and immediately sprinkle with edible glitter.  (I use a brush to scoop up the glitter, then tap it gently onto the frosting.)  Repeat frosting and adding glitter to cookies, one at a time.  Allow cookies to dry uncovered, overnight until frosting hardens.  Store in an airtight container up to one week.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Over the River and Along the Winding Coast of Maine

 



 It takes just about five hours to get to Camden, ME from here and another four hours to get to our final destination in Lubec, ME, but it always seemed so much longer a trip than that.  In fact, I always thought it was a twelve hour drive, and it could have been with all of the stops that we made and possibly a few wrong turns due to some navigation arguments.  We made the trip from Cape Cod to northern Maine to the eastern most town in the U.S. from pre-dawn to dusk on the day before Thanksgiving to visit my grandfather.
  I'm sure the goal was to leave by 4:30am, to get most of the driving done during the short amount of daylight in late November.  My father was always the one behind this grand idea.  But by the time everyone got settled into the car with our heavy winter coats locked in the trunk to make more room in the backseat for all three of us kids, it was probably closer to 5:30am.  As we made our way north, through the still sleeping city of Boston, I imagined what life was like in those tall buildings lit up like Christmas trees, and tried to read all of the billboards as we sped through the city.  Not long later, as the glamorous city life faded out of site, we eventually made our way to the big rest stop at the New Hampshire/Maine border and knew that we still had many miles and hours to go. 
  Camden was our lunch destination.  A tiny town on the coast with it's quaint harbor and main street of local shops.  It was at the harbor where my father parked the car and my mother took the red and white Playmate cooler out of the trunk so we could enjoy our homemade sandwiches as early as 10:30am, before any restaurant would possibly be ready to serve lunch.  We unwrapped chicken salad sandwiches on homemade white bread and got to drink a can of Coke or Ginger ale.  Wise Potato Chips were an extra treat, something we did not have regularly at home.  This was a special, once a year trip, after all.  To finish it all up, Val's chocolate chip cookies or brownies studded with semi sweet morsels, but these were an everyday affair as Val always made sure there were sweets in the house for us to snack on.  We probably walked around the harbor, checking out the fishing boats that were still in the water, ready to go out and get their catch.  It always seemed chilly after sitting in the hot car for so long, fighting for space with my brother and sister, trying to read a book to get through the long ride.  I'm sure my father could have stayed for hours, inspecting the skiffs, talking to fisherman, looking at ropes and nets and who knows what else, but my mother was eager to see her father whom she only got to visit maybe twice a year.
  Finally arriving in Lubec, after what seemed like many, many hours later, at the home my grandfather made with his wife, Norma was an event in itself.  The weather brisk, the sun beginning to set and Norma was hard at work putting the finishing touches on her ladies' hair in the shop that my grandfather built for her attached to their home where you could enter through a door in the living room.  We kids had to go in and meet the customers sitting in the chairs, vinyl black capes draped over them, hair in curlers.  They all seemed to know our names and ages and so much about us even though we had never met.  They said things like, "This must be Karyn!" when talking to my sister and asked me about second grade and my Brownie troop. It was a small town hair salon, where everyone shared everyone else's business, good, bad, happy and sad. 
  Hungry from our trip and itching to stretch our legs, we helped to bring the bags from the car to the upstairs bedrooms with the dark paneling where we would sleep under the eaves.  Then, we got to check out the drawer of sweets and homemade bread filled with Great Grammie's recipe for Date Filled Cookies, brownies, pumpkin bread and so many treats made by Elmira, Norma's cousin and other ladies from church groups and town clubs. There were not too many people who came from as far away as Massachusetts to visit Lubec very often and my grandfather made sure that pretty much everyone in town knew when we would be arriving. 
  The next day, on Thanksgiving, there was turkey and pies and all of the things that make the holiday special. On Saturday night, we had hot dogs and beans because that's what Grampie and Norma ate every Saturday night.  And early Sunday morning, we got ready to head back to Cape Cod.  Except for the long trip in the car, the arrival and the departure, the fine details of those Thanksgiving weekends are little fuzzy. I mostly remember the taste of chicken salad on my favorite bread of all time, the salty crunch of the potato chips at our  picnic on the harbor, the sweet softness of the date filling in the cookies, my grandfather's silliness, the fun and laughter from one of his endless pranks and Norma saying, "Oh Donald!" in exasperation.   Now, the farthest I travel with my own children to celebrate Thanksgiving is four miles down the road to Val's house.  There is so much in our culture about travelling on Thanksgiving: "over the river and through the woods" and as much as those trips to Maine are a special part of my childhood memories, I am so very glad that I don't have to go far to celebrate with family and friends.  I will just have to make my own picnic lunch on Wednesday, the day before, at Falmouth Harbor, instead.

Chicken Salad
(Makes enough for 4 sandwiches)


2 ribs celery
salt
black pepper
2 split chicken breasts (bone in, skin on)
celery salt
Hellman's mayonnaise (about 1/3 cup)

  Heat one inch water in a large sauce pan with a tight fitting lid.  Add 1 rib celery, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper to the water.  Once the water boils, reduce to a simmer and add chicken breasts.  Cover tightly and cook for 10-15 minutes until meat is cooked through.  Remove from heat and keep chicken in pan with lid on for 5-10 minutes. 
  While chicken is resting, finely dice remaining rib of celery.  Add to a mixing bowl with 1 teaspoon celery salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.  Remover meat from chicken bones, discard skin.  Finely chop chicken meat and add to the bowl.  Mix in just enough mayonnaise to hold chicken salad together.  Taste and adjust seasonings by adding more celery salt and/or black pepper.
  To make sandwiches, spread 1/4 chicken salad on one slice of bread and top with a second slice.  Cut in half and wrap in wax paper.  
  


Friday, November 1, 2019

Scalloping Season



  

 It's this time of year, usually while I am driving and I can allow my thoughts to drift for a moment.  I catch a glimpse out of the corner of my eye of cranberries in a flooded bog, ready to be harvested and the electric yellow, orange and red of the surrounding trees against a crystal clear blue sky and I recall late fall days at school, going to football games with friends and eating scallops, lots of scallops for dinner on what seemed like every night for weeks on end.
  Back in the late 1980's when I was still in high school, I remember my mother wearing my father's old jacket from his skating rink days, only taking it off to drive us to practice, pick us up from school or make dinner.  During these weeks of October, her days were spent opening scallops and the jacket kept her warm and protected from the gooey, snot like scallop guts that ended up in the trash bucket along with the shells.  Her task was to finish opening bushels and bushels of scallops, as many as a commercial license was allowed to procure before my father arrived home with more. This was a time when bay scallops were ridiculously plentiful and my father called it "a bonanza".  Each day, he left before dawn, in the crisp early fall air, took off in his boat, then returned in the late afternoon.  He unloaded his catch, the scallops heaped high in their baskets, shells clapping open and shut, making clicking noises and forcing the scallops on the top of the piles to tumble onto the concrete floor and continue there, clapping, slowly: open, shut, open, shut.



  My field hockey teammates and I were working on costume ideas for the upcoming Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Each high school class and fall sport made a float in the back of a pickup truck or on an old trailer used for hauling leaves and branches.  We decorated these vehicles with our school colors: maroon and white using crepe paper streamers, and poster boards designed with magic marker slogans meant to inspire our football team, the Falmouth Clippers to glory on Thanksgiving Day.   "Go Clippers!" "Beat Barnstable!" was about as creative as we got and we tired easily of the task, turning instead to a silly game of make shift field hockey in my dirt driveway, devouring the rest of Val's homemade chocolate chip cookie and goofing around.
  I'm still not sure if she was glad to take a break from all that scallop opening, her hands chapped and raw, tiny cuts along her fingers from the sharp shells and shucking knife, to help us make costumes for the float that year.  Her talent, along with cooking and gardening, has always involved the sewing machine for which I have many fantastic Halloween costumes and my sister has her wedding dress to show for it. We had hatched an idea to make angel and devil costumes featuring angels with maroon "F"'s on their costumes for Falmouth and red devils to represent our evil rival, Barnstable. Val mustered up what little patience she had left from her long day and helped us produce brilliant costumes amidst our teenage giggling and foolishness. I'm sure there are photographs somewhere documenting her hard work and all the fun we had as dressed as devils, we pretended to drag the float carrying the Falmouth Angels along main street the day before Thanksgiving to the pep rally at Fuller Field.
  Sadly, there is no longer a pre-Thanksgiving Day parade made up of Falmouth High School students, no longer a pep rally on that Wednesday.  The kids all have the day off from school and lots of families use the time to travel out of town.  There are not as many scallops in the bays, either.  Those "bonanza" days have passed, as the cycles of nature determine. But every October 1st, without fail, my father still gears up his boat and launches it in the early pre-dawn morning hoping for a mess of scallops to bring home for dinner.  I get excited when I see the local fish market marquee lit up with the words, "Bay Scallops".  It proves there still are some out there, hiding in the muck and sea grass they call home.  It's as if all is right in the world for a moment: the cranberries, the football games and the friendships just like they always were.

  If you can find them or you know a shell fisherman willing to give up some of their catch, this is the easiest and just about the most perfect way to prepare bay scallops.

      Broiled Scallops

shucked scallops, about 1/2 cup per person
butter
paprika

  Preheat broiler.  Lay the scallops in one even layer in a square, metal 8"x 8" pan.  Dot scallops with small pats of butter.  Sprinkle with paprika, salt and pepper.  Place under broiler for 3-5 minutes until scallops just begin to turn white and some of them begin to split on the edges.  Remove from oven and serve immediately.


Sunday, September 29, 2019

The Easiest Way to Grow Tomatoes


Red and yellow tomatoes on a flowered tray.
Perfectly ripe tomatoes.

  My garden, if you want to call it that, is overridden with weeds and flowers. Tall green leafy things suddenly sprout over night.  The Black eyed Susans which actually grow as if they are weeds, take over everything else that I attempt to deliberately grow in that small patch along the side of my house.  I like the flowers since it looks somewhat intentional.  So, I let them do what they want along with the nasturtium and zinnia.  The flowers seem to be the most successful of my plantings.  The kale is growing pretty well, too.  But these are plants that don't need any special care aside from watering when they are seedlings, so I can't really take much credit there.
  Tomatoes are another story.  I do not grow these from seed.  I take care to tie them up when the plants get tall enough.  I watch them closely.  But somehow, they just don't ever yield that much for me.  This year, I thought it would be different.  I purchased a few plants from Tina, a woman who sells starter plants at the Falmouth Farmers' Market every spring.  I figured I couldn't go wrong.  It all began so well, the plants were hardy.  They grew tall.  I tied them up.  They flowered and then the tiny green fruit came.  The fruit grew.  I checked every morning in anticipation.  Then one day, I found that something had eaten half of one of the tomatoes.  GRRRR.  Definitely not a rabbit, it was too high up.  Val suggested a raccoon.  No, my set up is so flimsy that a fat thief like that would likely pull it all down with its weight.  I tied tin pie plates and pinwheels to the stakes, hoping to deter squirrels.  But whatever that tomato eating varmint was, it was brave and wily enough to eat around my attempts to thwart it.
  Never mind.  I can and do always go to Val's for the best tomatoes, anyway.  Her rows of plants are neatly tied to strong metal netting and stakes.  Not a weed in sight along the well mulched paths between plants.  No, instead she has bright yellow, red and multi-colored Dahlias marking the rows of tomato plants.  It's ridiculously gorgeous and instagram worthy.  Maybe this is why I gave up the annoying task of weeding sometime back in July.  Because I know just down the street there is a garden paradise that I can access whenever I want?  The place where I pick juicy, red, ripe tomatoes that are not half eaten by raccoons or squirrels or whatever.  And if I don't have any time to pick them myself?  Well, somehow a small pile of them may magically appear on my kitchen counter while I am at work accompanied by a clipping from the local paper that she thought may interest me and my empty container that held the cookies I made for her last week.  That is definitely the easiest way that I know to grow tomatoes.


Sunlight on garden rows in late September
The heavens shining light on perfect rows of tomato plants

Flowers and plants growing in a country garden on Cape Cod
Strong metal stakes and wire netting keeping everything in check.

Garden Fresh Salsa
(makes a small bowl)

3 medium size ripe tomatoes
1 small jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed
1 small handful fresh cilantro or parsley leaves chopped to make about 1/4 cup
3 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
tortilla chips 

  Cut the tomatoes in quarters and gently squeeze out any excess juice and seeds.  Chop the seeded tomatoes into tiny pieces.  Finely chop the jalapeno, leaving out the membrane and seeds, unless you like a lot of heat.  Add the chopped cilantro or parsley.  Mix in the olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, sugar and salt.  Allow flavors to meld for about 20 minutes.  Serve with tortilla chips and margaritas.




Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Holding on to Summertime





paddle board and Adirondack chair in the summer sun
 
 What is it about August that I dislike so much?  The hot, humid heat in the early part of the month is a given.  The sweaty, sticky feeling of the oppressive air at 6:00am, just as the sun is rising letting you know that you're in for another day of being trapped in doors, a slave to the A/C or putting your chair in the water while watching your hooligans at the beach.  There is absolutely no relief other than spending all day in the freezer aisle of the supermarket which is its own quiet hell especially while this town is still packed to the gills with tourists. And those neon ice pops and 2 for 1 ice cream deals will lull you into to believing that frozen dairy is a substantial enough dinner.
  Or maybe it's the thought of going back to school, back to reality?  That dull weight of feeling that it's the end of the summer, the end of fun, the end of freedom, the end of long days spent reading on the beach, wading in the waves, daydreaming while laying in the cool grass and looking up at the clouds floating through the bluest of skies. Wait-is this how the kids feel, or is it really me?  The kids seem a little sad but ready.  Their excitement to get back to school, back to friends, back to fall sports is a feeling I knew so well.  It's electric, the anticipation of possibility and what the school year might bring.  Exciting.
  I used to love back to school when I was their age, too.  I even loved it when I worked in retail long before they came into my life.  All those fall colors, heavy sweaters, tall leather boots and cool new denim styles.  I couldn't get enough of it. And when the kids were little and took so much of my daily energy just to keep them happy, clean, fed- alive, I was glad to get a little rest when Tuesday after Labor Day came around, again. But now, not so much.

 house overlooking dock on a salt river on Cape Cod
 
  Maybe it's because they are getting older and it's becoming so obvious that they need me less and less.  I can see the end to all this back to school stuff in sight, now.  I feel a little sad this year.  Ava is going into her second year of high school and my little man, Declan is finishing jr high.  There are not many more "back-to-schools" left before the college years begin.
  If I could just somehow bottle it all up, keep it going forever, now that would be something, wouldn't it?  Keeping all the best times: jumping off the dock on a perfect sunny day, puffy clouds in the sky, a light breeze in the air, feet in the sand, and forgetting about the bad times: when your thirteen year old boy doesn't understand why you won't let him dive head first from 12 feet high into the murky salt water below.  Then pouts with his back to you until Gramma Val arrives to buy him an ice cream.  (All better, now.)  In an effort to hold onto all of it til the bitter end, I'm trying to pack it all in: a trip to the water park, a Labor Day party at Val's house, as many hours spent on the beach and paddle boarding as humanly possible.  There are only a few days left until September swallows summer up and lazy afternoons on the beach turn into after school cheering for the kids on grassy fields, homework and sweatshirts.

homemade cucumber pickles


  When I am really desperate to hold onto summer, I make pickles.  How else to preserve all that bounty from the garden?  This year, my little garden produced lots of cucumbers and not much else.  Feel free to sub out other vegetables for this quick pickle, such as green beans or fresh corn.  If you are canning to save all this garden goodness for later this winter, please consult the correct canning instructions such as those found here: https://www.bhg.com/recipes/how-to/preserving-canning/canning-and-preserving-charts/  Otherwise just quickly make this recipe and keep in the refrigerator.  Eat them within 2 weeks.

Quick Vegetable Pickle
(makes one 16 oz jar)

1 large cucumber, sliced 
1 jalapeno, sliced (remove seeds and membrane if you like it less spicy)
3/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt

  Pack sliced cucumbers and sliced jalapeno into a 16 oz canning jar.  Heat vinegar, water, sugar and salt until boiling.  Stir to dissolve sugar and salt.  Remove from heat and pour slowly over cucumbers and jalapeno in jar.  Allow to cool.  Cover tightly and store in refrigerator.  Enjoy within 2 weeks.










Friday, August 2, 2019

The Saga of the Summertime Berry Tarte


berry tarte with flower pie crust cut outs and knife

 I've written about all of this before in stories about my personal issues with being competitive: http://www.notesfromvalskitchen.com/2008/07/andrea-norris-aka-sarah-vallely-or-whos.html and how I have passed these tendencies onto my own children:   http://www.notesfromvalskitchen.com/2017/07/best-in-show.html
For a while, I was able to let most of it go, to mainly support my children in their efforts. I matted and framed various pieces of their artwork, helped them come up with recipes and even assisted pulling hot baked goods out of the oven when the timer went off if the cook was a  little too scared to handle it.  But this year, I could not quell the urge.  I needed to enter something in the Barnstable County Fair and I really wanted to win a blue ribbon.
  I have been craving and working on various pie projects throughout the year.  Pinterest, other cooking blogs and instagram have stoked the flame of trying to attain perfection or at the very least, some very tasty treats.  In February, when I am at my most bored, I entered a pie contest thrown by Providence Performing Arts Center in honor of their production of "Waitress", a musical about love and pie.  Although the person in charge of entries emailed back with a very positive response, I heard nothing else about my sweet/tart "Pucker Up Pie" made with a raspberry Nilla Wafer crust, a tart lemon filling and raspberry whipped cream on top.  I am still wondering what the winning recipe was. I have been tinkering with savory pies topped with roasted red peppers and caramelized onions, sweet hand pies with peaches and raspberries and even brought out some old stand by's like strawberry rhubarb and apple.  So, it should come as no surprise that I thought I would be up to the task of taking home a blue ribbon from the Barnstable County Fair with a pie creation this year.
  Inspired by so many pretty pie photos on the internet, decorative tops of pie crust cut out leaves and flowers and dusted with sugar, cooked until golden brown, I decided that this creative touch could mean the difference when it comes to winning.  Also, I wouldn't make a traditional American pie, instead, I went with a more "European" style tarte but still using regular pie crust.  My test tarte looked beautiful as it went into the oven, pretty cut out flowers adorned the top of it, filled with blueberries and strawberries.  And when it came out, bubbling fruit juices and crispy, flaky crust, it looked good, too, except for those pesky purply colored blueberry drips that ran down the sides.  I decided I could perfect this and felt confident that all would be well with another tarte I would actually deliver for judging.
  An interesting story must have some sort of conflict.  The second tarte that was supposed be absolutely gorgeous, showing ultimate pie baking skills and  without any fruit juice drips, was not what I expected.  Sure, it was pretty and looked scrumptious but those darn blueberry stains dripping down the sides of the crust, sent me stomping out of the kitchen.  There was no way I had time to recover before the baked entries were due on Monday morning at 8:00am.
 That night, in bed,  I tossed and turned and kept myself up way past midnight trying to think of a recipe that was creative and delicious enough to grab me a top prize.  I finally came up with one: scones made with white and dark chocolate and studded with dehydrated strawberries.  I called them, "Strawberries Love Chocolate Scones" because I believe that a good name can help my cause. 
  When I woke up at 5:00am on Monday morning, I got to work right away and popped the scones in the oven, typed up the recipe, drizzled the scones with chocolate and decorated them with strawberries.  I was ready just in time with my scones and the kids' entries: S'Mores Cake made by Ava and Declan's  "Breakfast Candy": caramels made with maple syrup and bacon.  As Ava and I gently loaded up the car as not to jostle any of our delicate work, Ava asked my where my tarte was.
"Oh, I don't think I am going to enter it.  It doesn't look perfect." I said, trying not to sound as deflated as I felt.
"Mom, it's not supposed to.  The contest is for amateurs, not professionals.", she said.
So true.  And I was acting a little like a prima donna, not at all setting a good example for the kids, especially when I nearly had a tantrum the night before over the whole thing.  I begrudgingly went in the house and quickly wrapped up my "Summertime Berry Tarte".  "At least, I should win something for my scones.", I thought to myself.
  The ladies who take in all the baked items before judging fawned over the tarte and were equally upbeat about the scones but their excitement is no indication of winning.  They are just happy to be allowed to taste some of the entries once the judges are through.  As I walked out the door, I knew I needed to release my mental hold on winning.  So, I did my best to put it out of my mind until Thursday, when we would be back to enjoy the fair: the junk food, the rides, the petting zoo and perhaps, the prizes.
  This story ends with me beating myself up for being my own worst critic.  Clearly the judges felt differently about my scones and my tarte.  Those what-I -thought-would-be blue ribbon winning scones, only won a red, second place ribbon, beaten out by some fancy red and green sprinkled cookies. But the tarte was the real break out surprise.  They awarded highest scores for flavor, texture, uniform shape, degree of difficulty and even neatness/appearance.  I guess there is something to be said about an amateur attempt at making something delicious even if it is not absolutely perfect in every way.  My being ridiculously overly competitive with myself to the point of almost self sabotage is not my best showing through.  So, let me please remember this as I gaze upon the fancy red, white and blue ribbon bestowed upon my work.  And let me come up with something even better for next year's competition.

Feel free to substitute other berries or even use chopped peaches and plums.  Just be aware, those fruit juices tend to drip down the sides during baking, no matter what you do to try and stop it from happening.

Summertime  Berry Tarte
(makes one tarte)

Tarte dough:
1 cup All Purpose flour, plus more for rolling out
1/3 cup Crisco
2 tablespoons cold butter
pinch of salt
¼ cup water

Filling:
1 cup fresh or frozen strawberries
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1/3 cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch of salt

3 tablespoons milk or cream
¼ cup turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Using a large mixing bowl, combine
1 cup flour, Crisco, butter and salt with a pastry cutter until small, pea
size pieces form.  Slowly add water and combine until mixture comes
together and cleans sides of bowl.  (You may not need all of the water.)
Form dough into a round and wrap with plastic.  Place in refrigerator.

In another bowl, combine berries, sugar, cornstarch, nutmeg and salt. 

Remove dough from refrigerator.  Roll out on a floured board to
approximately 12” in diameter.  Gently place rolled out dough over an
8” tarte shell, laying the dough inside and touching the bottom of the
tarte pan.  Using a rolling pin, roll over the top of the tarte pan to cut
the dough.  Set the tarte pan on top of a rimmed baking sheet lined with
parchment.  Pour the fruit filling inside the tarte shell.  Using very small
cutters such as the type for cake decorating, cut out flowers and leaves
with the leftover rolled out dough.  Brush each cut out with milk and
place in a decorative pattern over the fruit in the tarte shell.  Continue
until the tarte is completely decorated.  Sprinkle turbinado sugar over
the top of the decorations and fruit.  Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes
until the edges of the dough are golden and fruit is bubbling.  Remove
from oven and allow to cool for at least 2 hours before serving.

blue ribbon and best in show ribbon



 

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Miss Kentucky


    My friend, Deb loves winter.  She spends most of it at her escape home in New Hampshire where she gets her fill of downhill and cross country skiing, fireside dinners and snuggling under heavy blankets to keep warm.  But summer on Cape Cod is really where it's at for this Irish-American girl with roots in Kentucky. 
  Without fail, every year, on July 4th, at the annual Quissett village parade complete with decorated antique cars and kids on bikes tossing candy to spectators, she laments, "Summer is almost over!" as she waves a flag and cheers on the bagpipes and folks dressed in Revolution era costumes.
  Ah, no.  It's really just beginning as the kids have only been out of school for a week.  But Deb likes to make the most of everything.  To squeeze out every moment and enjoy it all to its fullest.
  So, here I am writing during the last week of July, reminding her (and me) that we are actually only half way through at this point on the calendar.  There is so much more fun to be had, sunsets on the beach, midday dips in the ocean , cucumbers and tomatoes fresh from the garden and ice cream heaped on cones dripping down our arms.
  We should all have a friend like Deb.  I can stop by anytime, still wearing my bathing suit at 6pm, dirty, sandy beach feet that I have not yet had time to rinse off and a messed up head of hair from my large brimmed beach hat.  It is summer, after all.  So, when she says, "Tap on over for a drink."  while Ava is at dance (tap) class down the street from her home, I don't hesitate.  I know she means it.
  I love that Deb puts together sliced salami, sharp cheddar cheese, pepperoncini and Ritz crackers.  I bring my new creation, "Fancy Cocktail Popcorn" to test out on her because I know she is game to try just about anything I make. She drags a wooden bench next to two Adirondack chairs on the terrace by her front door where marigolds, lavender and parsley are mingled together in over sized terracotta pots, white lights strung on the pergola overhead and a fan, plugged in and placed by our feet to compensate for the sticky summer heat and lack of a breeze on this late July evening.
  In honor of Deb's Kentucky heritage on her mom's side, I created a cocktail with bourbon and gently sweetened peach iced tea.  Mint and frozen raspberries and peach slices round it out and dress it up.  Although, it's really Craig, her husband and high school sweetheart, who is the whiskey drinker, Deb embraces the concept of a Kentucky bourbon or even and Irish whiskey cocktail to honor her ancestors on both sides of her family.  She praises how pretty the drink looks as I snap a few photos.  She takes a few tiny sips but I know, that she is ready to switch over to her signature beverage: Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay poured over a large wineglass filled with ice. 
 We savor the moment on this summer night, have a quick catch-up, then it's time for me to get going to pick up Ava from class.  I think about the perfect ending to this hot, humid July day.  It is just about over and I'm ready to get out of my bathing suit and into my pajamas.  As the sun begins to set behind the tall pines in Deb's yard, I back the car out of her driveway, take a deep breath and think to myself, "I'm so glad this summer is far from over."

  This is a refreshing way to drink bourbon on a hot summer night.  Named in honor of my dear friend who's mother hails from Kentucky.  
  
Miss Kentucky
(makes one cocktail)

 1 1/2 oz. bourbon
4 oz. sweetened peach iced tea (see recipe that follows)
1/2 oz. lemon juice
4-6 mint leaves, plus a few for garnish
frozen peach slices 
frozen raspberries
ice

  Fill a shaker full of ice.  Add bourbon, iced tea and lemon juice.  Crush mint leaves in your hands and add to shaker.  Shake vigorously for 30 seconds until your hands stick to the shaker.  Strain into an ice filled rocks glass.  Garnish with extra mint leaves, peach slices and raspberries.

Sweet Peach Iced Tea
(makes 18 oz.)

4 Celestial Seasonings Country Peach Passion tea bags
18 oz. boiling water
1 tablespoon honey

  Steep the tea bags in a large heat proof container of boiled water for a few hours until cooled to room temperature.  Remove tea bags and discard.  Mix in honey until dissolved.  Store tea in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to one week.


 
 

Friday, July 12, 2019

Peach Melba Hand Pies

  

  Val used to make mini turnovers filled with homemade jam out of the leftover pie crust while she was assembling one of her pies.   These turnovers weren't fancy.  They were often odd shapes as they were made from the trimmings of the pie crust.  It didn't matter to her.  The pie was really the star of the show.  The leftover crust dough would have been tossed out in the compost, but she had three kids who inevitably began creeping around the kitchen whenever she set foot in its direction.  So, she took the discarded pieces, plopped a small amount of jam on each one and folded them over, finishing each one off using the tines of a fork to crimp the edges.  She put these in the oven along with the pie and pulled them out before the pie was finished.  Once they came out and cooled for as long as we kids could stand to wait, she let us snack on the delectable morsels with their now molten filling burning our little impatient tongues.  This kept us from asking for a slice of her beautiful pie before she was ready to serve it.
  At this time of year (summer) the pie flavor was strawberry rhubarb, peach or even blueberry.  The effort required to turn out a perfect pie crust on a hot, humid summer day and have it come out flaky and light then baking it in a high temperature oven, thus heating up the entire house to unbearable was quite a feat.  But Val was always up to the challenge, knowing that even just one bite of one of her award winning pies would make it all worth it.  So, it was usually for a special occasion or gathering when Val got out her mixing bowl and pastry cutter on a sticky late July day.
  Of course, Val's pie always stole the show on the dessert table at any event.  She would wait to slice that gorgeous creation with the perfectly latticed top, lightly browned to perfection until dessert was served.  Well after all the hungry husbands oohed and awed over it, practically drooling just thinking about the crispy, flaky crust and soft, sweet, layered fruit inside.  Their wives pulling them away by the arm while the ladies peppered Val with questions like, "How do you have the time to bake?" and "Is that crust homemade?"  As if it could or would ever be store bought.
  The crust is the elusive magic, any pie baker will tell you.  It can behave badly in humid weather and requires a light hand.  For heaven's sake, don't overwork it!  The crust is the part that I crave the most-with just enough fruit filling maybe that's why I think about those scrappy little turnovers so much?  A good crust to filling ratio is essential to my ideal pie and some crispy sugar on top seals the deal.
  I'm not sure of the exact year that Val won one of her many blue ribbons at the Barnstable County fair for Peach Melba Pie but you can bet it had a lot of admirers clamoring for the recipe.  Sweet, firm peaches and bright, red raspberries nestled under that golden crust that gently cracked when sliced.  We were excited that Val won but saddened by the fact that we wouldn't get a slice of the pie since the judges probably devoured all of it.  But I am sure that we got to eat the turnovers, probably gobbled them all up before the blue ribbon winner came out of the oven.

  The idea for these little hand pies came from those yummy jam turnovers.  Just the right size to savor while standing in the kitchen. no fork or plate needed.  Of course, I can't  resist using up all the pie dough scraps.  My version of keeping everyone at bay while baking the main event is topping them with cinnamon and sugar and baking them like pie crust cookies.

Peach Melba Hand Pies
(Makes 12)

Crust:
2 cups AP flour plus extra for rolling out
2/3 cups vegetable shortening (Crisco)
4 tablespoons cold butter
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup cold water

  Place 2 cups flour, shortening, butter and salt in a large bowl.  Using a pastry cutter, work the ingredients together until small, pea size pieces form.  Make a mound with the mixture and make a hole in the middle.  Pour 1/4 cup water over mound and blend with a fork.  Add more water and continue blending until mixture pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  Do not overwork!
  Form two rounds.  Place on a heavily floured board and roll out with a floured rolling pin.  Cut round pieces out of the pie dough using a 4 1/2" cutter ( I use a can from a large pineapple juice that is about 4 1/4" in diameter.)  Place cut rounds onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  Collect scraps and place to the side.  Continue by rolling out second round of pie dough and cutting into about six more smaller rounds.  Lay a sheet of parchment over the first six and stack the second six on top.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes or up to 24 hours.  Trim scraps into square-ish shapes and layer onto another parchment lined baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for 15 minutes to 24 hours.

Filling and finishing touches:
3 cups fresh or frozen sliced peaches
1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup turbinado sugar

1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1-2 tablespoons milk or cream

  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  Remove pie crust rounds from refrigerator.  Grease a 12 cup standard size muffin tin.  Lay each one of the cut rounds into the muffin tin, pushing down and gently folding the dough so that it fits and will hold the filling.  Mix peaches, raspberries, sugar, cornstarch and salt gently in a medium size mixing bowl.  Fill each of the pie crust in the muffin tin with the mixture.  Bake for 20 minutes until the edges of the pie crusts are golden and the fruit filling is bubbling.  
  Meanwhile, combine 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl.  Remove square-ish scraps from refrigerator and brush each one with a small amount of milk or cream.  Immediately sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon mixture.  Place in oven and bake for 10-15 minutes until edges are golden.  Remove from oven and snack on these until pies are ready.
 When the peach pies are beginning to turn golden around the edges, after about 20 minutes of baking, remove from oven and sprinkle each pie with some turbinado sugar on the filling.  Place back in oven and bake for an additional 5 minutes until edges of pie crusts are gently browned.  Remove from oven and allow to cool in muffin tin for about 20 minutes.  Gently remove each hand pie and serve.