At Home in Vermont: Family, Food and Familiar Places (Part 1)

Vermont road

I grew up on this  road in Vermont.

I’ll bet you can tell that I’m not in California today.  Instead I’m in my home state, Vermont.   This is the road that runs past the house where I grew up, where my mother still lives.  It  feels like home to me.   See that mountain off in the distance? That’s Camel’s Hump, a landmark that most Vermonters will recognize.  It is much smaller in this photo than it appears in real life. During my growing-up  years we had an unobstructed view of Camel’s Hump and the horizon where the sun sets every evening.  We used call the family into the living room to  gather in front of the picture window: “Come see the sunset!”    Since the trees have grown on the ridge we have to walk to the top of the hill to see the sunset in the summertime when there are leaves on those trees, and the walk is worth it!

Vermonters who live within sight of Camel’s Hump have a special bond with the mountain.   We are east of the Camel’s Hump, so we see it with the hump on the left.  People who live over in the Champlain Valley are west of it, so they think the hump belongs on the right.  Artists paint or photograph that mountain both ways,  but if you live in Central Vermont,  you probably wouldn’t want a picture of it from the other direction.  Everyone knows that someone tried to name the mountain “Crouching Lion”,  but we’re glad they didn’t.

Camel's Hump in Vermont

This is our side of Camel’s Hump…with the hump on the left.

Conversation in Central Vermont usually begins and ends with the weather.  Summertime can be hot and humid, but my first several days here have been absolutely perfect.

Green Mountains of Vermont

The Green Mountains of Vermont are usually blue!

Yesterday I drove down to the capital city,  Montpelier, for the well known Capital City  Farmer’s Market.  It was a perfect day, and lots of people were out on the sidewalks,  visiting with friends they might happen to meet,  everyone  reveling in the perfect day.

Montpelier Farmers' Market

Beautiful vegetables, plants, meats, baked goods, tee shirts, ethnic foods, artisan soaps, handmade art tiles, jewelry, granola, cheese, etc.

I was surprised to discover that artisan liquors were also represented at the Capital City Farmers’ Market!  With free samples!  If my dad was still alive, he would heartily approve!  I tasted both the Elder Flower Rum and the Maple Rum at Dunc’s Mill.  Of course, I had to bring home some of that maple rum!  Thinking about maple rum cake, maple rum glazed chicken and maybe a chocolate maple rum sauce!

 

Dunc's Mill artisan rum

 

I couldn’t resist buying some old fashioned peas, as they remind me of my father’s garden and my grandmother’s  summer visits with our family.   We would sit in a circle around a bag for the pea pods,  and shell the peas into a metal pan.  You could hear the peas hit the bottom of the pan with a beautiful percussive tone.  Sometimes a few peas would hit the floor, and my grandmother would have us all in delicious hysterics as she declared, “Oops, someone just pea-ed on the floor!”

peas

When I come to visit my mother,  I have to plan a few surprises.   She really loves to have her family visit and anticipates some culinary creativity.   Certain family members are known for their specialties, like chocolate chip cookies or apple pie.    Mom especially likes my scallops.  I dust them with Progresso Italian Bread Crumbs and sautee them in butter.  This time I wilted some spinach in the pan after the scallops were done.

scallops and spinach

We added a few shrimp too!

One of my surprises for Mom this year is a   breakfast  parfait made with Uncle Sam Original Cereal,  berries and Cabot Vanilla Bean Greek Yogurt.   It’s a nice treat first thing in the morning!

yogurt Breakfast parfait

Our special breakfast parfait ingredients!

The Cabot Coop, well known for their Vermont cheddar cheese, is only a short drive from our home.  Their Greek yogurt isn’t available in California, so I look forward enjoying more of their products when I’m here.   The Cabot creamery holds special memories for me, as it is one of the first places I took my husband on his first visit to Vermont.   I’m hoping to get over there for a tour of the creamery and taste some samples of their newer offerings.    I have  recently discovered  Uncle Sam cereal and love it!  It’s toasty wheatberry and flax seed  flavor is delicious and adds the perfect crunch to the parfait.  I have to thank Attune Foods,  a sponsor of Camp Blogaway, for sending me samples to try.  It’s my new favorite cereal, and Mom loves it now too!

I always bring along some  avocados from our farm in California.  I bought  fresh cilantro, zucchini, scallions and home grown tomato at the Farmer’s Market, so we had a quinoa salad with chunks of our home grown avocado on top.   It’s great to be home in Vermont,  sharing California avocados.

quinoa salad with avocados

A few years ago my brother planted some beautiful gardens for my mother to enjoy in the yard around the house.   This year the clematis and honeysuckle are especially lovely…in the shade next to the hostas.   Everything here is green and growing!  Even though the summer sunshine is cherished by Vermonters,  this Vermont native (who lives on a California avocado ranch)  is looking forward to a good old fashioned Vermont thunderstorm!  Stay tuned!

Clematis, honeysuckle and hostas

Mixed Bean Soup with Smoked Chicken Sausage

Mixed Bean and Chicken Soup

We have been eating lots of chicken soup in our house this week.   We’re still recovering from a nasty upper-respiratory flu,  and we’re craving soup.   I wanted to make a soup that did not require a trip to the store, so I checked the freezer and the pantry AND the refrigerator.   After watching back-to-back episodes of “Chopped”  on the Cooking Channel all week, I felt like a contestant who was required to make a dish from a basket of ingredients…except I could choose the ingredients.

chicken thighs cooked in salsa

Boneless/Skinless Chicken Thighs cooked with Roasted Garlic Salsa

I started with frozen chicken thighs (boneless/skinless)  and some left-over roasted garlic salsa.  They were cooking nicely in a pot on the stove while I explored the pantry.

 

Bean Blend

Mixed Beans, Peas and Lentils

I found a container of mixed gourmet beans from Costco…beans, peas and lentils in lovely colors…so I dumped about 2 cups of them into a pot and filled the pot with water.   They needed to soak for 4 hours, but that was no problem.   I turned off the chicken when it was done and returned to the Cooking Channel.

drain and rinse the beans

Drain and rinse the beans after soaking

Later in the afternoon,  the beans were ready to drain, rinse and add to the chicken.  I poured a 48 oz. box of chicken broth (with no MSG) into the pot and added about 4 cups of water so that the volume of the beans was doubled.   Turned on the heat and waited another  hour and a half.

Beautiful beans, peas and lentils

These beans, peas, and lentils are so pretty!

When the beans were cooked, I added some sliced smoked chicken sausage that also came from Costco.   The sausage has peppers and seasoning in it that is enough to flavor the soup.   I didn’t add any other seasoning.  Four of these sausages were enough because I already had the chicken thighs in the soup.  Another time I might skip the thighs and just use the sausages.

Smoked Chicken Sausage with chilis

These aren't too spicy but add good flavor to the soup.

Was it good?  Judging from the amount that is left, I would say so.  Serve with sliced avocados on top, of course!

 

Add avocado slices to your soup

Cool creamy avocado is delicious on the hot soup!

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