When Life Gives You Lemons

I’m about to go off on the lemons to lemonade metaphor, so buckle up.

This is my first post in almost a month and a half. My last post was about the passing of my cousin and trying to come to grips with his being gone. What that meant to me and my family.

Then two weeks later my mother had a stroke. Luckily she survived and is recovering. But talk about shaking up my world. And we’re still in a pandemic! Freaking sour lemons!

When things are bad, they can get worse. Then sink to the depths of what seems to be the absolute worst, then plunge off a bridge. Then plummet straight down to….  Okay. You get it.

I believe that energetically things must balance out eventually. So I’m looking forward to the joyous and carefree times that absolutely positively must be ahead.

Which brings me back to lemons. You know? Lemons get a bad rap. Sure, they’re sour. But they also bring out the taste in so many foods. They aren’t just for lemonade. And it’s not only the juice that we use. Lemon zest adds a different type of flavor than the juice. You can candy the peels. The juice and zest can be used in sweet and savory recipes.

What would food be without lemons? Bland. Because we need the sour to notice the sweet. Without one, we can’t truly appreciate the other.

When I started reaching out to family and friends telling them about my mom, so many have stepped up to help. It feels good knowing people are truly here for me. I actually feel more supported than I have in a long time. Maybe they were always ready to help, but I just didn’t notice.

While scrolling on Instagram a few weeks ago, I noticed that someone had an orange plant grown from seeds. I didn’t have oranges, but I had lemons.

Since they’re both citrus and have seeds, I figured maybe I could grow a lemon plant. I’m plant obsessed and growing from seeds is the cheapest way to get new ones. Plus you get the joy of nurturing the plant from day one. Like a true plant parent!

So I squeezed some lemons. But this time I kept the seeds and planted them. Not all of them sprouted, but I have two very strong looking seedlings.

I kid you not. The day the first one sprouted I had asked the universe to show me some joy. It wasn’t big huge joy. But it was still joy. And showed proof of life. I’ll take it.

The Chowdah Project: McMenamy Seafood

McMenamy Seafood clam chowder

The wind was whipping hard today in Massachusetts! Those warmer days we had in December have slipped away for the moment and it feels as it should on a January day in New England.

When it’s biting cold out, my mind finds its way to clam chowder. Today, so did the rest of me!

We don’t have Sunday dinners anymore because of the pandemic, but every other week or so, I get take-out from McMenamy Seafood in Brockton and bring it to my brother and my mom. Usually they both want a clam strip plate.

Most of the time I don’t get anything for myself, but today I decided on clam chowder. They also have fish chowder and seafood chowder. All chowders are available in a small size (Dory) and a larger size (Schooner)

Since the chowder was my lunch and dinner, I got the Schooner. It was really good! I wish the portion was bigger though, because I downed the whole thing pretty quickly. I was hoping for some leftovers. Next time maybe I’ll order two types of chowders.

The clam chowder was on point. While a tad bit salty, I still enjoyed it. It was the right consistency too. Just creamy enough, without being too thin or thick, with nice chunks of potatoes and clams.

The restaurant has a drive-up window, so you don’t have to get out of your car to get your food. Which is alright with me during this cold snap.

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McMenamy Seafood ~ Fresh Homemade Chowders
Location: 810 Belmont Street (Route 123), Brockton, MA

A Staple Fall Recipe: Zucchini Bread

zucchini bread in pan

I don’t remember when I realized that I hadn’t baked or eaten zucchini bread in quite some time. But it was within the past couple of months. After that, I wanted some. So when my mom and I visited a farm stand, I was looking for zucchini. And I found it!

Next, the search began for a recipe. The very old recipe I had didn’t seem appealing anymore. Many of the recipes in more recent cookbooks all had a chocolate focus, which I didn’t want. So I searched online and found a recipe on Sally’s Baking Addiction.

It’s rare that I follow a recipe exactly. This time was no exception. When I adapted the recipe, I decided to use all brown sugar and used half the amount of oil and substituted ricotta cheese for the rest. I wanted some extra protein and that’s why I used ricotta cheese. You could also try yogurt or switch up the type of oil. I added nuts for more protein as well. You could use chocolate chips, raisins or other dried fruit. Dates or dried cranberries would be good too.

In case you haven’t used any of my recipes yet and aren’t familiar with my way of baking and cooking, I believe that recipes are merely a guide. In other words, the directions given below for how to combine the ingredients isn’t set in stone. Stir them in the order that you may prefer. This was easiest for me.

Likewise, your oven is different from mine and may run hotter or cooler, so the time needed will vary. You can also use this recipe for muffins. Based on the original recipe and my muffin baking experience, bake muffins for about 20 minutes at the same temperature.

Sally’s recipe has good bones and is perfect for adapting. For example, you could use half the amount of zucchini and use finely chopped apple for the other half or similarly wet fruit or vegetable, like pear, pumpkin or squash.

My version is below. Let me know if you try it!

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Zucchini Bread (Makes 1 loaf)

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup ricotta cheese
1 medium zucchini (shredded, about 1 cup)
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup finely chopped walnuts

INSTRUCTIONS:

Set oven to 350℉. Either grease and flour a loaf pan or line with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine olive oil and ricotta cheese. Stir in zucchini. Mix in vanilla extract and brown sugar. Stir in cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, baking soda and baking powder.

Add flour and combine. Do not stir too much. Stir in nuts.

Pour mixture into prepared pan. Bake for around 55 – 65 minutes. Test by sticking a toothpick into the center. It’s done when it comes out clean.

Let cool for about 10 minutes. Sometimes I speed cool by sticking the pan straight into the freezer or fridge on a trivet. This bread is nice served warm, so don’t cool too long.

Enjoy!

The Best Of New England

New England scene showing pumpkins and a field with haystacks

My mom and I recently went to a farm stand. It was so perfectly New England in late summer moving into fall. The pumpkins, stacks of hay, freshly picked vegetables and fruits remind me of the beauty in Massachusetts.

Given the levels of trauma and sadness happening in this country on a daily basis, any degree of serenity and peace I can find is a much needed gift. So with this roundup post, I’m celebrating some the best of things in New England.

Best Drive-In Movies

Going to drive-in movies is a thing again because of the pandemic. I remember going a few times when I was very young and having a blast. Fodor’s Travel lists ten of the best drive-in movie theaters around the country and three of them are in New England. With chilly weather here, it’s the perfect social distanced activity.

#3 Sunset Drive-In – Colchester, VT

#2 Mansfield Drive-In – Mansfield, CT

#1 Wellfleet Drive-In Theater – Wellflett, MA

Best Places To Live

As a third generation New Englander, I’m definitely biased, but there are many good things about living here. People travel here from all over the world to attend school. Whether you love ’em or hate ’em, our sports teams are some of the best. We have world class hospitals and medical care, which is especially important right now. Five places in New England made Money magazine’s list of the 50 best places to live in America.

#37  Salem, NH

#28  Chesire, CT

#26  Braintree, MA

#14  Chelmsford, MA

#12  South Windsor, CT

Best Craft Distilleries

Rhode Island Spirits, located in Pawtucket, came in third in USA Today’s list of the ten best new craft distilleries.  They sell organic and gluten free gins, vodkas and liqueurs. This reminds me of the great time I had touring a rum distillery with my father.

Best Pizza

The Daily Meal recently declared the top 101 pizza places in the United States. Several New England pizza places made the cut. Connecticut has the most places on the list of the New England states and beats the entire country with the number one spot. Mystic Pizza is arguably Connecticut’s most well-know pizzeria and the movie by the same name helped launch Julia Robert into stardom. Back in January 2019, Playbill wrote that Melissa Etheridge was working on the score to a stage adaptation of the movie. Despite the fame of the pizza shop, it’s not on the list.

#90 Micucci Grocery – Portland, ME

#86 Slab – Portland, ME

#67 Al Forno, Providence, RI

#47 BAR – New Haven, CT

#45 Zuppardi’s Apizza – West Haven, CT

#43 Colony Grill – Stamford, CT

#40 Tilton House of Pizza – Tilton, NH

#25 Galleria Umberto – Boston, MA

#16 Modern Apizza – New Haven, CT

#9 Sally’s Apizza– New Haven, CT

#7 Santarpio’s – East Boston, MA

#1 Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana – New Haven, CT

Best Scents

I can’t claim that these are the best scented candles, but I like the idea of them. The brand is called Homesick and the scents are supposed to remind you of a place.

Scent is a big thing for me, so I was thrilled when I was invited to take a smell walk in Boston. That walk focused on scent was one of the coolest things that I’ve done as a blogger.

The Boston candle is described as “Fall days spent wandering the cobblestone streets. Notes of spiced tea with clove and orange capture the City on a Hill.”

There are a few more city candles and state candles too. I think these would make a great gift. To wind up this roundup, here are the descriptions of the scents for each of the New England states.

Connecticut: “Warm-baked pies fragrant of nutmeg, clove and lemon. Eucalyptus and oakmoss evoke memories of brisk fall afternoons spent outside.”

Maine: “Reminiscent of wild Maine blueberries and lavender fields. Woody notes of cedarwood and patchouli balanced with a floral bouquet.”

Massachusetts: “Apple cider, simmering coffee, and just-baked donuts. Sweet hints of tonka bean are balanced by spicy cinnamon and a touch of fragrant clove.”

New Hampshire: “Cozy up with a cup of hot apple cider. Autumn days spent outside with views of foliage and the sweet smell of vanilla in the air.”

Rhode Island: “An afternoon on the Cliff Walk with hot apple cider and cozy sweaters to keep warm. The rolling tides carry the sweet and spicy scents of fall.”

Vermont: “Vibrant foliage covers the rolling hills of the Green Mountain State. Scents of cinnamon and apple pie blend with decadent maple syrup.”

What do you think? Do these scents represent the best of New England? And just because you might like it, here’s a cider donut locator. It doesn’t get much more New England than that.

Indoor Garden: Growing Celery

celery growing in small jar of water

My relationship with celery varies over time. When I’m going through a soup making phase, I tend to buy more. Then I usually never make enough soup and some (or most!) of it goes to waste.

After that, I stop buying celery. Then a year later, I read a random article about the million health benefits of celery and wonder why I never have it in the house. So I buy some, cut up some sticks and remember how I hate that it’s so stringy. I plan to use it in some tuna or something and two months later I have to throw it all away, because it’s gone bad. This is the celery story of my life.

In other words, I need to keep just a small amount of celery at home and not much more. Over the past few months, during quarantine, I’ve been eating more celery — chopping it up and putting it into green salads. It’s so strange how when I eat it plain or even with something on it, it tastes bland and the stringy nature of it annoys me. But eating it as part of a salad adds a lot of flavor and a wonderful crunch. I love it!

During this time, I saw a blog post on making kitchen scrap gardens and how easily I could grow celery indoors in a small jar. So about five days ago, I cut the stalks off and put the root in some water. Look at all the growth in the picture above! In two weeks or so, I will probably have a small harvest. Yay!

Most likely the harvest update won’t be on this blog. So follow me on Instagram, where I document my plant parent adventures, and see how my garden continues to grow.

*Updated 8/13/2020* I harvested and it was delicious!