Sunday, July 1, 2018

Annual Fourth of July Parade and Picnic: Where Does the Time Go?

family at boat harbor on July 4th

  In just a few days, it will be time for the annual fourth of July parade and picnic. After a long winter and school finally letting out for the summer, everyone is ready to celebrate with family and friends.  We are already feeling nostalgic, my friend Deb and I, about this event as our oldest children blossom into teenagers and the youngest are not far behind.  How much longer will they indulge their mothers by dressing in red, white and blue, waving flags in the air and actually hang out with us?
  I began dragging my family to the 4th of July parade in the tiny village of Quissett, MA when Ava was about three and Declan, already walking but still a pudgy baby, barely a toddler.  Deb tipped me off to this quaint, little parade with it's low key vibe, grass roots gathering styled mixed with a little humor about current politics as the participants dressed in costume and made signs to illustrate their point.  An ultimately patriotic celebration along a small harbor nestled between Woods Hole and Sippewisett at base of the Knob.

July 4th parade in Quisset, MA on Cape Cod

Spectators and bike riders in annual Quisset, MA July 4th parade

  Early on the morning of the 4th, year after year, I drag out my decorations: finds from Christmas Tree Shops, Job Lot and the Dollar Store.  I've decorated strollers, wagons, bikes and bike helmets, adhering stars and stripes pinwheels, tiny flags, sparkly stars and bunting with duct tape.  My work makes me sweat as the time ticks by and the sun rises in the sky.  I holler for Rob when it's time to load it all into the car, carefully, as not to disturb all of my handiwork.  I watch over him as he struggles to make it all fit and curse and threaten when he appears to not be taking enough care with my works of art.
kids on wagon on fourth of July
boy on bike decorated with American flag

  Of course, this part of the day never takes place in advance.  There is no pre-planning organization unlike most happenings in the rest of my life.  Independence Day always seems to creep up on me.  The inevitable snow day make-ups for school tacked onto the end of the school year force us to keep the academic schedule until the very end of June.  The last day of school finally comes and I can barely take a breath before it's time to dig out the patriotic gear and get ready to celebrate the birth of our nation.
  As if all of the decorating weren't enough, once all of the wagons, bikes, chairs, umbrellas and blankets are loaded up, it's time for me to focus in the kitchen.  Of course, there needs to be snacks for such an event.  We cannot survive on the melting Hershey Kisses and slimy peppermints tossed haphazardly to parade spectators by children riding in their grandparents' cars adorned with painted poster board and red, white and blue streamers.  No.  That won't do.  After all, it will be close enough to lunch time when the parade finally passes by the second time and leads everyone to the grassy hill with a view overlooking the harbor where there are cold cans of cheap beer and a bathroom in the old clubhouse perched at the top.  Someone starts the crowd singing a few public-spirited songs: The Star Spangled Banner and America the Beautiful. The kids run around and make forts under the few tall bushes along the old wooden fence using the towels and blankets I brought for the adults to sit on.  We dragged our wagons filled with coolers, chairs and umbrellas onto the grass.  Deb begins to set up a luxury picnic area  and demands her in-laws be seated before the kids steal all of our stuff.  She has a fold-out picnic table and multiple coolers filled with Prosecco, ice, cold beers and drinks for the kids, too.  We've figured it out after a number of years.  She brings the drinks and I bring the sandwiches, chips and cookies.  My menu hasn't changed much since the first picnic.  Roast beef with "Russian" dressing and Quick Pickled Onions, Turkey with mango chutney and crisp garden lettuce, both piled high onto palm-size snowflake rolls: small round balls of Portuguese bread, soft and pillowy.  They are the perfect size to hold in your hand while you hold a glass of bubbly in the other.   Those, salty, crunchy, Cape Cod Potato Chips, (duh), one bag for those grubby kids hands and one for the adults.  To top it all off, a fresh batch of All-American Chocolate Chip Cookies-easy to transport.  I love it when the dark chocolate chips get cold when the Ziploc bag of cookies ends up at the bottom of the cooler with the ice packs.
  When we pass the cookies around, that's the signal to begin packing up.  A few cups of Prosecco or a couple of beers in the midday sun calls for a nap or a dip in the ocean.  We have most of the day and a lot of celebrating still ahead.  Time to enjoy the beach and get ready for whatever festivities this holiday brings.  But for now, our bellies are full and there is a relaxed contentment in the air.  And for me, I'm just happy that my kids consented to another year at the annual 4th of July parade.
little girls at July 4th parade

celebrating July 4th at the harbor in Quisset, MA

celebrating July 4th in patriotic gear with flags
Baby celebrating July 4th

  These sandwiches are super easy.  A couple of  sauces that jazz up everyday cold cuts make them seem fancier than they really are.

Roast Beef Sandwiches with "Russian Dressing"
(makes about 8 small sandwiches)

1 pound thinly sliced deli roast beef
1 1/2 cups "Russian Dressing"  (see recipe below)
pickled red onions (see recipe below)
8 Portuguese snowflake rolls* or small slider buns

  Slice rolls in half.  Slather Russian Dressing on both sides of bread.  Be generous but not sloppy.  Layer one slice of roast beef onto each half of bread.  Place a few pickled onions on top of roast beef of one half, being careful to shake off any excess liquid.  Put sandwich together and wrap in wax paper.  Store sandwiches individually wrapped in wax paper in a larger container so that they stay neat in the cooler.

*Portuguese snowflake rolls can be found in most Portuguese bakeries.  They are tiny versions of Portuguese bread and perfect for finger sandwiches.

  Not exactly sure why this is "Russian" but this is my version of the popular deli classic.

"Russian Dressing"
(makes about 1 3/4 cups dressing)

3/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 heaping Tablespoons dill pickle relish
2 teaspoons French's Classic Yellow Mustard
1 teaspoon spicy horseradish
1 teaspoon sriracha
1 pinch each salt and pepper

  Mix all ingredients together.  Keep refrigerated up to one week.

Quick Pickled Onions
(makes about 1 cup)

1 red onion, cut in half, then sliced
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon pickling spice (bundled in cheese cloth and tied with kitchen twine)

  Slice the onion in half then slice each half of red onion and place in a small saucepan.  Add vinegar, water and sugar.  Stir to combine.  Place pickling spice onto a square of cheese cloth about 4" by 4" and tie the ends with kitchen twine.  Add bundle to onion mixture.  (If you don't have pickling spice, a bay leaf, a few peppercorns and some dry mustard sprinkled into the onion mixture will do the trick.)  Bring everything to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes.  Turn off heat and allow onions to cool in vinegar and spices.  Refrigerate onions submerged in pickling liquid for up to one week.

  Another ridiculously easy picnic sandwich recipe....

Turkey and Mango Chutney Sandwiches
(makes about 8 small sandwiches)

1 pound deli turkey, sliced thin
1 jar Crosse & Blackwell Hot Mango Chutney
1 small head fresh lettuce 
8 Portuguese snowflake rolls

  Slice rolls in half.  Spread chutney on each half of bread.  Layer one piece of turkey on each half of bread.  Rip a few pieces of lettuce so that it fits neatly on the snowflake roll and just hangs off the edge.  Place lettuce in between the two halves of bread, in between turkey layers.  Wrap each sandwich in wax paper. Place individually wrapped sandwiches in a container to keep them neat in the cooler.

All American Chocolate Chip Cookies
(makes about 36 cookies)

1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup Crisco
3/4 sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1 12 oz. bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

  Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
  Mix butter, Crisco, sugar and brown sugar in a stand mixer until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes).  Add eggs and mix well to combine.  Add salt, baking soda and vanilla.  Mix well, again.  Remove bowl from mixer and add flour.  Stir with a wooden spoon until incorporated.  Add chocolate chips and stir to combine.  Drop by teaspoonfuls onto lined cookie sheets (silicone baking mats or parchment paper).  Bake for 9-11 minutes until edges and tops are golden brown.  Allow to cool for a few minutes on the pan, then remove cookies to racks to cool.  Store in an airtight container.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Natives are Restless for Strawberries

ripe strawberries in a glass dish

There is a sense of urgency in the air.  No, not because we are heading into the last week of school and the kids are running here and there, needing extra cash for the multitude of activities their teachers have planned to keep them entertained and all the bag lunches that are waiting to be packed, not to mention the last minute morning scramble:
"I need a beach towel!"
"Where's my bathing suit?"
"Mom, did you sign my permission slip??!!"
"Don't forget to pick me up after school today!"
  All that madness is enough to send me right over the edge but that is not why I am feeling antsy.  To be honest, although I try to be as organized as possible and get upset with myself if I forget something for the kids, there is actually something far more important occupying my thoughts at the moment: it's native strawberry season on Cape Cod.  The fleeting moment of the year, the few weeks at the end of June when I need to eat until I am stuffed and jam my freezer full of the the delectable, tiny red berries to get myself through the winter. 
  I am not alone in my strawberry madness.  It's a mad dash to Tony Andrews Farm in East Falmouth to get the berries before they sell out every day.  I've written about this before.  My insanity is over obtaining the most delicious, sweet strawberries on the planet.  Pretty much everyone I know who grew up here longs for the native strawberries sliced and macerated in a bit of sugar, spooned over biscuit shortcake and smothered in whipped cream.  My aunt Janet arrived on Friday from New Hampshire where she has resided for most of my life and has gorged herself on the sweet treat for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Although she will make a few more trips back to Cape Cod this summer to enjoy the beach and visit with family and friends, she knows those strawberries will be gone by the beginning of July.  We will all gather for Fathers' Day celebrations and again on my dad, Dick's birthday this week.  The dessert featured on the menu?  Strawberry Shortcake, of course!  There is no need to bake them in a cake, puree them into a cold soup or mask them between flaky pie crust.  We can save those techniques for frozen berries that have been hoarded away when we need our fix in the middle of January.  Now is the time to barely mess with the goodness Mother Nature has bestowed upon us.
  This June, I have been the lucky recipient of a multitude of strawberries from Val's garden.  Tiny, oh so sweet and just begging to be popped into my mouth as they sit on the kitchen counter ready to be devoured.  Sometimes we just slice them into a small dish and pour a little heavy cream over them.  The simplest of pleasures.  Then there is my Strawberry Shortcakes recipe however, Val makes hers with Bisquick from the recipe on the back of the box but if you don't have any on hand, this recipe uses pantry staples.  I usually forget to buy Bisquick so I had to make due somehow. Don't forget the whipped cream that Val heaps on top stating, "It's mostly air!"  Really, in fact, this makes a pretty healthy meal when you think about it.  Fresh, native fruit, dairy and a little carbs.  If that's not enough to justify eating as much as you can, remember strawberry season only comes once a year.

  The biscuits often outlast the strawberries until we can pick up more at the farm down the street. In the humid, Cape Cod weather, biscuits tend to go stale overnight.  Instead of throwing the stale ones into the compost and going through the effort of making more short cakes, I created this recipe.

strawberries, whipped cream and biscuit crumbles in a tall glass

Strawberry Shortcake Parfait
(serves 4)
Leftover biscuits
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 pinch of salt
2 pinches granulated sugar

Berry Mixture:
1 quart fresh strawberries
1/2 cup sugar

Whipped Cream:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

  Crumble biscuits into a food processor or blender.  Pulse a few times to make large crumbs. Melt butter in a medium sized frying pan over medium low heat.  Add two cups of crumbs, a pinch of salt and two pinches of sugar.  Cook for fifteen minutes, stirring frequently until the crumbs dry out and become crisp.  Remove from heat and cool completely.

Meanwhile, macerate the berries.  Slice the strawberries into a medium sized mixing bowl.  Add 1/2 cup sugar.  Let rest until ready to serve.

Mix the whipped cream.  Add heavy cream, 1/4 cup sugar and vanilla to the bowl of a stand mixer.  Cover the whole operation with a dish towel to prevent cream from splattering all over your kitchen.  Whip cream on high for 1-2 minutes until thickened.

To serve: create layers in tall glasses by spooning a few tablespoons of crumbs on the bottom, a couple of tablespoons of berries and juice over the crumbs and topping the berries with 2-3 tablespoons of whipped cream.  Repeat the layers until the glass is filled.  Eat immediately and enjoy!

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Summer Bucket List 2018 on Upper Cape Cod

Summer Bucket List 2018, Upper Cape Cod, Falmouth, MA

 Summer is finally creeping up on our seasonal town.  The first few weeks of June are filled with seemingly endless end of school year activities, dance recitals and baseball games which give way  to the last day of school with a huge collective sigh.  The promise of the next ten weeks filled with fun, activities and hopefully a few lazy days lounging on the beach fill my mind.  Labor Day seems light years away and I'm ready to focus on my Summer Bucket List.
  I look forward to summer vacation with heavy anticipation beginning as soon as April vacation ends. After a long, stormy winter,  I am so ready for warmer weather and beach days.  The sun setting later, strawberries, basil and tomatoes, ice cream for dinner, outdoor showers, morning dew on the grass, the smell of Coppertone on my skin and sand between my toes.  My Summer Bucket List is pretty simple but it's filled with all the things I plan to do.  Best of all, I've kept it easy this year.  Pretty much everything takes place in Falmouth, MA  or in a town close by (the Upper part of Cape Cod). The only exception is a quick trip to Martha's Vineyard but the ferry leaves from Falmouth.
  Living here is a gift but my life gets busy and it's easy to allow a boring to-do list to take over instead of enjoying what is right in front of me.  My Summer Bucket List is a pledge to myself and my family that I will take the time to savor my surroundings and celebrate this beautiful place with the ones I love.  I hope you plan a bucket list of your own or steal mine, if you want. These are the fun things I plan to do in Summer 2018:

Hike the Knob: The Knob, located in Woods Hole, MA has two short trails that lead to a spectacular view of Quissett Harbor and Buzzards Bay.  On a clear day, you can see New Bedford to the west, the Cape Cod Canal entrance to the north and the Elizabeth Islands to the south. Bring a cup of coffee to sip as you sit on the granite bench commemorating Cornelia Carey, the woman who donated this land to conservation so that everyone could enjoy its beauty.

4th of July Parade:  There are actually quite a few 4th of July Parades that take place yearly in tiny
men marching in 4th of July parade, dressed in colonial clothes
Annual 4th of July Parade, Quissett, MA
villages in Falmouth on July 4th.  They are typically very grassroots with kids riding decorated bikes and perhaps a vintage car or two with passengers waving flags.  Look in the local paper or on social media sites for times.  I like to go to the Quissett parade that kicks off sometime around 11:00am (these events are pretty laid back).  It features a homemade dragon manned by a dozen people and  satire of a current political theme which I don't always understand!

brightly lit ferris wheel against the night sky
Ferris Wheel
Barnstable County Fair: I have been going to the Barnstable County Fair ever since I can remember.  It's dusty, hot and has all of the junk food you can possibly imagine.  There are all sorts of rides to make your stomach turn
and games to play and waste your money trying to get the big prize.  In the exhibit halls, you can
find local entries of baked goods, jellies, pickles, home grown vegetables, arts and crafts.  It's exciting to enter something then go to the fair to see if we won the blue ribbon in our category.  Val always seems to take home a glorious prize like "Best in Show" or the state award for her divine produce.

beach sunset girl in sweatshirt
Sunset after an early evening swim

Pizza at Sunset:  Pack the cooler with drinks, grab a hot pizza to go and head to the beach.  Be sure to wear your suit for a swim in the water that's been warmed all day from the sun.  The best places to view the sunset in Falmouth are Chapoquoit Beach and Old Silver Beach.  Order your pizza from West Falmouth Market where they have homemade dough and all sorts of toppings.  Enjoy Mother Nature's spectacular nightly show.

Ice Cream Tour:  Sampling ice cream at various ice cream shops and documenting all the new flavors we try out on a long list near the summer calendar is a favorite of ours.  We will be sure to check out Smitty's Homemade Ice Cream, Somerset Creamery, Four Seas, Eulinda's and Polar Cave to name just a few.

kids eating ice cream in front of ice cream parlor
Can't get enough of Smitty's Homemade Ice Cream

Mini Golf:  There must always be a summer mini-golf excursion, followed by ice cream, of course
boy putting on mini golf green
Mini golf, family fun
(see above).  The perfect early evening adventure after a day at the beach that the entire family can enjoy.  Everyone is happiest when mom wins.  Cataumet Crossing covers both golf and ice cream.  Head to  Sandwich Mini Golf then conquer your ice cream appetite at
  Ice Cream Sandwich
Falmouth Farmers' Market:  Every Thursday from Memorial Day until Columbus Day, the Falmouth Farmers' Market is located at Falmouth Harbor from 12:00pm-6:00pm, rain or shine. You can find all sorts of fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables as well as mouth watering baked goods, jams, jellies and even fresh, hot apple cider donuts! Enjoy the ocean breeze and the view of the harbor as you shop and support local business.

Falmouth Commodores Games:  The Falmouth Commodores are part of the Cape Cod Baseball
baseball players in an outdoor dugout
Falmouth Commodores game
League where talented college players from all over the country come to play and be scouted.  The games are free, donations are gratefully accepted.  Where else can you sit under the stars and watch a relaxing and often exciting game of baseball?  Bring a blanket or a beach chair, get a hot dog and a soda at the snack bar and sit back and enjoy one of the best summer pastimes.

Beach TourIn Falmouth, we are lucky to have so many choices when it comes to going to the
beach.  Hit the west side of town for beaches that offer the best sand bars at low tide.  Want a view of Martha's Vineyard?  Then stick to the town beaches near the center of town and East Falmouth. Feel like floating down a lazy river? Bring your boogie board to Wood Neck Beach where the tide rushes through. No matter your choice,  every beach has it's own personality.  That's why we spend a week in August making sure we visit at least every beach in Falmouth at least once.

kids with boogie boards at the beach
Ready to boogie at Wood Neck Beach

Martha's Vineyard: Jump on a ferry in Woods Hole or at Falmouth Harbor and enjoy a thirty minute boat ride to the island of Martha's Vineyard.  Oak Bluffs is a scenic town with local shops, America's oldest carousel where you can try to grab the brass ring and a neighborhood of tiny gingerbread cottages at Oak Bluffs Campground to name just a few things to explore and do within walking distance of the ferry dock. A great idea for a day long excursion that can be taken at the spur of the moment.

kids on ferry to Martha's Vineyard
ferry ride to Martha's Vineyard

Breakfast at the Village Cafe: I love to go out for breakfast.  One of my favorite spots is the
window view from Village Cafe, West Falmouth, MA
Village Cafe, West Falmouth MA
Village Cafe  in West Falmouth, open only for the summer season. Their gooey, frosted cinnamon rolls are not to be missed.  But there are a lot of great places to go fill up on great food before hitting the beach for a long day in the sun.  Other favorites include: Pie in the Sky a funky bakery in Woods Hole, love those popovers and  Mary Ellen's Portuguese Bakery  a local favorite for linguica and eggs.

S.U.P (Mastery):  This one's for me.  I finally bought myself a
stand up paddle board.  But here's the truth:  I don't know how to use it.  So, my goal is to get out there and paddle around small inlets at Menahaunt Beach and the marsh side of Chapoquoit Beach.  My plan is to get good at it so that I can at a moment's notice, pack up my car and get on the water to enjoy this beautiful place I call home.  If you want to do the same but don't have your own SUP, check out Mocean in Mashpee Commons.  They rent all sorts of gear. Excellent, friendly service and a local business I like to support.

Happy Summer!