In the true spirit of the enrichment cluster model at Wells Road Intermediate School, six students have taken their Cluster experience to the next level. These students were a part of the Cupcake Boss cluster where they learned to make frosting, color it, and use various styling tips for different patterns. In addition, they learned how to mold fondant into decorations. Ultimately, they made and decorated cupcakes for the school staff.
Students Nora Davis, Ali Dobbert, Bella Hassett, Sophia Karabetsos, Toryn Riley and Ava Ryan approached Cupcake Boss Cluster teacher Kierstan Pestana asking to bake, decorate and sell cupcakes at the school’s drama performance of Willy Wonka’s Kids, the week of May 22. They wanted to take their knowledge to the next level. The students spent several recess blocks meeting with Pestana to plan how to achieve their goals. They then worked with the concessions committee, already set up for the play, the two teachers who were directing the play, as well as Dr. Bailey to be sure they could make their plan a reality.
By Shirley Murtha
Granby is definitely a Community Supported Agriculture town, with many of its farms offering the convenience of weekly shares of vegetables. It wasn’t a big leap for Lost Acres Vineyard to apply the concept to the wine industry as well. Not that shareholders have to go out to pick the grapes and make the wine—all they have to do is sign up for the distribution.
Members commit to buying two cases of wine (24 bottles), either of the wine-maker’s choice or customized to the shareholder’s preferences. They can pick up the wine all at once, or spread out over three pre-established distributions. This helps the vineyard plan for the season, provide some working capital throughout the year and maintain the sustainability of the crop.
There’s a new pollinator garden on the grounds of Cossitt Library thanks to local volunteers, Bosco’s Garden Center, and the Granby Department of Public Works. Look for more free library programs and workshops about gardening, pollinators and making better summer salads on the Granby Library’s website
By Shirley Murtha
For those who still miss having the Wilhelm farm stand open and stocked with fresh vegetables and fruits in the summer, take heart. You will soon see the results of collaboration with Sven Pihl of CT Edible Ecosystems, who has leased some of the farmland and plans to grow some old favorites.
By Shirley Murtha
Past recipient of Granby's Community Service Award, Sandy Flagg is a community treasure. She is a woman of endless compassion who always finds a way to make life better for those who are in need of something. Nine years ago, she felt that Granby residents could benefit from having a community meal one night during the week where families and singles would get together and share not just the food, but also friendship. With donations of money and food, and South Church's generous loan of its kitchen and parish hall, the idea became a reality: the Waste Not Want Not Community Dinner was born. The relatively small number of early participants has grown to an average weekly head count of 150, and the people come from Agawam, Bloomfield, Simsbury, Southwick, Windsor and Windsor Locks as well as from Granby. Many are "regulars" who attend almost every week. Several groups always sit together — an absence raises concern. Flagg is overjoyed when birthdays and anniversaries are celebrated.
By Kate Bogli
You know it’s “cool” to eat local—to call yourself a locavore, wear a man-bun and grind your own fair trade coffee. You feel good about yourself because your banana farmer in South America is getting paid a fair wage and you know the names of your local farmer’s kids. But really. What’s in it for you to shop local? I mean, it’s expensive and it’s time consuming, right? Maybe not so much when you consider the whole picture.
TRUST. Do you want to know how your food is produced? Looking into the eyes of the person who made it means a lot more than any certification from the U.S. government. We’re taking other countries at their word when they put it on their label. Your local farmer eats what she produces, feeds it to her family, hosts friends with that food and sells it in the community in which he lives, where his children go to school, where their family goes to church and where her family has lived for generations. There’s no higher stakes at getting something right than that.
By Tracy Cavaciuti
When James and Sandy Chen opened @thebarn in 2015, they beautifully renovated the building at 17R East Granby Rd. that has been a gathering place for Granby people for decades. The restaurant offers an exceptionally fine dining experience, a now famous Happy Hour and Sunday Brunch, catering services and special event services.
Grateful for the success of their two restaurants in Granby, Han Asian Cuisine and @thebarn, the Chens put out a call to the community asking for feedback. The response, albeit very positive was, what might be missing is a place where families can go several times a week, not just for date night or special occasion — a place where people can bring the kids on the way home from a sports event and gather as a family to reflect on the day and enjoy good food and conversation.
To answer the call for a more casual dining experience, they created The Loft, with a casual dining menu that is available upstairs @thebarn and on the seasonal patio. There is plenty of seating, a full service bar and two TV screens. The atmosphere is casual. The menu is rich in depth, broad in its presentation offering appetizers, pasta, entrees, flatbreads, salads and some amazing burgers and sandwiches including a fried macaroni and cheese burger and a chicken breast with pesto, red peppers, tomato and brie. The creative element delivered by Chef Dan Fortin and his team extends to every item on the Loft menu. There is something for everyone. Menu items range from $7 to $19; truly a bargain for cuisine delivered by this fine restaurant’s talented team.
The mission statement for Han and @thebarn is to serve the needs of the people of Granby and their families. James and Sandy Chen welcome community feedback for both Han and @thebarn. Community feedback is what brought on this positive change.
The Loft menu is available Sunday through Thursday from 3–9 p.m. All menus can be viewed on Instagram, Facebook or at www.atthebarngranby.com
By Susan Accetura
Eat local—eat seasonal—eat a rainbow a day. Summer is one thing, with our gardens full of tomatoes, zucchini, peaches, peppers, raspberries, blueberries, basil, we scarcely need to visit the grocery store at all. A walk through the garden can determine the menu. Autumn abounds with pumpkins, potatoes, acorn squash, apples, pears, quince. But winter in Connecticut? Good luck with that.
These days in the big supermarkets we can find almost every fruit and vegetable any month of the year. When there is no local produce, try to buy produce that is currently in its natural season somewhere, being picked at its peak so it isn’t tasteless. Any self-respecting taste bud knows that a tomato from the supermarket in December bears little resemblance to the one you pick from the garden in August. Traditional New England winter dinners conjure up slow simmers of beef stew, or pot roast, or a long-baked chicken pot pie or mac and cheese, low on sparkle and shimmer, but high on comfort and warmth.
For several years, due in part to my excessive thriftiness and to my parents’ willingness to share some extra quality-time with their grandsons, I’ve had the pleasure of spending a week or two each April in Italy. While there’s no shortage of fine art and architecture, our favorite sightseeing is done at the outdoor markets. In early April we find mountains of artichokes, boxes of asparagus, bunches of arugula. And what is on the menu in the restaurants? Artichokes, asparagus, arugula. What is cooking in the traditional home kitchens? Artichokes, asparagus, arugula, true seasonal eating.
Italian winter menus focus on many of the hardier vegetables that we also see here—cauliflower, cabbage, kale, fennel, beets and broccoli, which they combine with winter pantry staples of dried beans, polenta and rice to create cozy comfort foods. Coin-shaped lentils, a symbol of prosperity, are a New Year tradition. As winter progresses and we start to see colorful citrus from California and Florida, southern Italy and Sicily send juicy grapefruit, brilliant lemons and the spectacular Sicilian blood oranges northward through the rest of the land.
Go ahead and crank up the crock-pot, truss up the roast and throw another log on the fire. It is cold out there, after all. And if you’re trying to keep some fresh, crispy produce that hasn’t simmered in a pot all day, in your diet think outside of the lettuce-tomato-cucumber box. Look for new and exciting splashes of color in the market—try grating some winter carrots and tossing with a splash of lemon and olive oil for a crunchy side dish, add some grated beets for an explosion of purple and orange. Here’s another vibrant salad to keep things fresh, like an unexpected flashy cardinal on a cold gray day, and a reminder that somewhere, the ground is warm and the sun is shining.
Winter Beet & Blood Orange Salad
Serves 2 to 4, but easily multiplied
1 or 2 medium red beets, scrubbed and trimmed
1 or 2 blood oranges, carefully peeled stem to bottom
½ small fennel bulb, trimmed of tough parts (save some of the feathery fronds)
1 small shallot, or ¼ of a small red onion
Your favorite olive oil
Sea Salt, coarse or flaky
Freshly ground black pepper
Note: If you slice the beets really thin (a mandoline is great here), they are thoroughly delicious raw. If you prefer, you can roast them first. Navel oranges, grapefruit, or a combination of the two can be substituted if you can’t find blood oranges.
Thinly slice the beets into rounds and lay them on your plates.
Thinly slice the fennel bulb crosswise and scatter the slices on top of the beets.
Slice or finely-dice the shallot (you can cut back here if you’re not a raw onion fan) and sprinkle on top of the fennel.
Slice the oranges into rounds and place on top of it all.
Drizzle with a tablespoon or so of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Garnish with tasty wisps of fennel fronds.
This recipe is simple yet flashy, and oh so refreshing. The juice of the orange and the zip of the shallot provide a pleasant balance, but feel free to add a squeeze of lemon or lime to taste. And rejoice, we’re halfway through winter.
Holcomb Farm CSA is again offering fresh, locally grown, pasture raised turkeys for your holiday meal on a pre-order basis. These are fresh, not frozen, turkeys. Due to our limited cooler space, pre-ordered birds must be picked up on Tuesday, Nov. 22, between 3 and 7 p.m. We cannot hold turkeys overnight.
Ekonk Hill Farm can supply turkeys from 10 pounds to 40 pounds—you decide and order the size that works best for you. Ekonk will match your order as closely as possible but there is no guarantee you will receive the exact weight you request. Bird weight can vary plus-or-minus up to 4 lbs. The cost is $4.99 per pound. The order form and a deposit of $45 must be received by Nov. 11. Reservation forms are available at the CSA barn. For more information, call 860-844-8616.
By Susan Accetura
“Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness.” (Jane Austen)
It’s apple season here in Connecticut. From a pomologist’s perspective, this has been a challenging year. A mild winter resulted in apple blossoms swelling a bit early, subject to damaging spring frosts, and a rainy blossom time in May wasn’t motivating to the pollinating bee brigade. The summer drought has kept some varieties on the smaller side, but at least all of the crisp, delightful flavors have arrived. It’s time for apple picking, applesauce, apple crisp, apple dumplings and, of course, apple pies.
So what makes a perfect apple pie? Fresh apples and a gorgeous crust clearly help, but let’s face it, there is no one “perfect apple pie” any more than there is one perfect tossed salad. It is indeed a matter of taste, a matter of preference, a matter of upbringing, a matter of memories, and, as much as anything, perhaps a matter of dining companions. The variations of apple pie are as prolific as apple varietals, which number more than 60 in Connecticut alone.
For many, the perfect apple pie is quite simply the one that tastes most like Grandma’s. Did Grandma use lard in her crust? Or was it shortening, butter, a little sugar, maybe some cider vinegar or vodka? Did she cook the apples before baking the pie? Were they roughly chopped or thinly sliced? Tossed together casually? Or perhaps fanned out with precision like a tarte tatin pièce de résistance? And what of the spices — simple cinnamon, a grate of fresh nutmeg, allspice perhaps, zesty cloves, or maybe some mysterious McCormick’s Apple Pie Spice? And the crust construction; was it blanketed cozily like Grandma’s handmade afghan? Or carefully woven like the lattice fence in her flower garden? Maybe Grandma was extra sweet and rubbed together a scrumptious streusel topping with brown sugar, butter, oats and a little love, for a bit of Dutch apple magic.
To create your own perfect apple pie, you may need to recall your finest apple pie experience and consult with the creator. Maybe that’s Grandma, or Mom, or Auntie, or an innkeeper where you experienced the best one ever. Maybe put your faith in your favorite cookbook author (Ina, Nigella, Martha, Alton).
In a pinch, if you’re a novice, the recipe below is a very simple starting point for a basic apple pie. Make a few, learn the basics, then start experimenting. If you choose to make a Dutch apple pie with a crumbly streusel topping, make extra topping and keep it in the fridge for an easy last minute apple crisp this season. You’ll be glad you did.
Perfectly Simple Apple Pie
For the Crust:
3 cups all purpose flour
1 ½ tsp. salt
½ pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
½ cup (approx.) very cold water
Combine flour and salt in a medium sized bowl.
Using a fork, a pastry blender, or your fingers, mix the butter pieces into the flour until it resembles coarse crumbs with some flecks of butter; about the texture of steel-cut oatmeal and peas. You can also use a stand mixer with a flat beater or a food processor if you are careful not to over mix — just a few moments with a flat beater, or a few pulses of the processor.
Pour most of the cold water into the bowl and toss together lightly until the mixture just starts to come together.
Dump it all onto a clean counter and form it into a ball. Try not to overwork it, but a few schmears with the heel of your hand is OK if it’s a bit too crumbly. Divide the ball into two pieces, shape casually into discs, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes or more.
For the Filling:
This is a very basic uncooked filling, the most time-consuming part will be preparing the apples.
8 cups peeled, cored and sliced apples. Choose firmer apples like Northern Spy, Cortland, Granny Smith, etc. — or a blend. Softer apples are fine but will make a softer, saucier pie.
3 Tb. flour
½ cup sugar (granulated or brown or combination)
1 tsp. cinnamon
Toss all filling ingredients in a bowl and let rest while you roll out the crust.
Putting it all together:
Pre-heat oven to 425°.
Roll out one of the dough balls and lay it over the pie pan (9 or 10”), with about an inch overhang. Some folks struggle with rolling out pie dough; I believe that too much anxiety with the crust will result in a less-than-enjoyable apple pie experience. Don’t stress. Just keep practicing. Use a little flour on your work surface. Use a little more flour if your dough is too sticky. Sprinkle with a a few drops of cold water if your dough is too dry. And by all means, if you’re not having fun, there are plenty of perfectly suitable frozen crusts in the market. There’s nothing wrong with rolling out your crusts one day, lightly wrapping them and chilling in the fridge and finish assembling the next day with no pie dough angst.
Fill the crust with your apple mixture. Pile it high. Leftover apples make a tasty snack. Add a pat of butter on top of the apples.
Roll out your top crust and lay it over the apples. Leave enough hanging over the edge (about an inch) so you’ll be able to pinch it together with the bottom crust. Crimp the edges as desired. I just pinch and twist with my thumb and the inside knuckle of my index finger, or you can create some elaborate fluted work, or even just press it with the tines of a fork.
Sprinkle the top of the pie with a bit of cinnamon sugar and make a few small cuts in the top to vent the steam. Set it on sheet pan or cookie tray lined with foil or parchment to catch any drips and slide it into the oven.
Bake at 425° for about 25 minutes, then reduce heat to 350° for another 25 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting a knife into the pie using one of the steam vents so you don’t mar your masterpiece. If your knife meets much resistance, you might choose to bake it a bit more, depending on how soft you like your apples.
Let the pie cool for about 30 minutes before cutting. It will still be toasty and warm, but the slices will hold their shape better if slightly cooled. Serve as is, or with some fresh whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or do as the Vermonters do, with a wedge of sharp cheddar. Not my personal preference but far be it from me to stand in the way of anyone and their cheese. I do love an appetizer of Cortland apple wedges with slices of cheddar — a positively tasty combination.