Post #503 Who Remembers the Tomato Festival?

August 22, 2016 at 4:40 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #503 Who Remembers the Tomato Festival?

Last year, I wrote a post about the Annual Tomato Festival in a nearby town.

It’s a six hour event and it’s a pretty big deal to the people around here.  We went early and left early after having seen everything in about 45 minutes.  It was too hot to really stay around and support everything that was happening.

2013 Kendall-Jackson Heirloom Tomato Festival | www.kitchenconfi

Well, it was held again this past weekend and we showed up about a half hour after opening.  We didn’t ride the tram this time since we knew our way from the parking area to the festival.

It was mildly disappointing, for a couple of reasons.  First, the area has started a new event to be held next weekend called the Annual Watermelon Chucking Contest, wherein they use highly powered cannon-like devices to toss watermelons across the river.  Because of this, they didn’t have the watermelon chucking contest.  Last year, you could set the criteria of the cannon and press Shoot and watch your watermelon sail over the river, hoping to hit the other side.

Second, the number of booths had dwindled noticeably.  Last year, there weren’t a huge amount of booths, enough to easily visit each one in an hour.  This year, the same booths were there, but less of them.  The Humane Society was absent so there weren’t any dogs and cats to cuddle.  And the used books booth wasn’t there which we had all been looking forward to.  There was only one place to buy food, one place to buy drinks, and one place to buy sno-cones.  The lemonade at the drinks stand was remarkable only in the fact that it didn’t taste nearly as good as the little girls’ stand across the street from a couple of weeks ago.

But despite the minor disappointments, it was a fun morning.  It was great to be out and not at work.  It was good to be in a small community enjoying the day and supporting a worthwhile cause, the local volunteer fire dept.  We bought a new filet knife made of carbon steel.  Sharp as a scalpel.  I haven’t cut myself yet.  FiL bought one antique pocket knife and two brand new ones.  He whittles and carves so knives are like toys to him.  We got more information on upcoming events.  We watched some ladies carding wool into fibers and spinning that into yarn.

And we watched some people have a tomato race.  The official race took place long after we left, but they allowed people to race against each other for fun and practice.  Like an egg race, the competitors balance a ripe tomato on a spoon and run or walk fast through a course without dropping the tomato.  One little girl kept dropping her tomato and picking it up until she put it in her pocket and just carried her spoon upright to the finish line.  Her brother cried foul, of course, so they both got prizes.

Since it’s on a river, there were boats everywhere, and places to walk along the water.  There were cool breezes to enjoy, people to talk to, and even people we recognized and recognized us.

Before we left, we bought some heirloom tomatoes, some lettuce, and other salad stuff.  We had home fried chicken, baked rice, and fresh salad.  Way good stuff.

And you know what?  We had a really good time after all.

What?  You’ve never heard of baked rice?  It’s so easy!!

Heat your oven to 350.  Pour two cups of chicken broth into a dutch oven with a tight lid.  Add one cup of rice, and any of your favorite seasonings.  Go light on the seasoning since the cooking process will intensify the flavors.  We also add chopped onion sometimes.  Cover the pot, and bake for about 45 minutes.  Take out of the oven and let it sit for 15-20 minutes then serve.  Easy peasy.  If the rice is too soft, reduce the cooking time next time.


Post #406 The Great Eastern Shore Tomato Festival

August 24, 2015 at 9:56 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

I’ve mentioned before that we live in a small town in a rural community on the Delmarva Peninsula in the mid-Atlantic area of the country.  Twenty minutes north of us is a mid-sized town of good size and 30 minutes south of us is a large town.  Between the three town, we can usually find everything we need for modern living.  For everything else, we have the internet.  Clustered around us are smaller towns, villages, and hamlets.  One of those villages held the Great Eastern Shore Tomato Festival this weekend and we went to it.

It started at 10am so we headed out about 10, not wanting to be there at opening.  After a few mis-starts, we finally were on the road at 10:30 and arrived just before 11.  We drove down one of the main roads and encountered a young man, sitting in a lawn chair in the middle of the road.  He directed us to the parking area where an older (much) man told us where to park and where to pick up the tram that would take us to the festival.

Tomato Festival 5

It’s hard to tell in this picture, but that’s a tractor pulling the tram.  We sat all the way at the back.  Once we knew where we were going, we found it was only a few blocks away.  A lot of the locals took advantage of the day and held yard sales.  We didn’t stop at any of them, though.  Far too tempting.

So we arrived at the festival.  It was right on the Nanticoke River Riverwalk pathway.  The first booth that greeted us was from our favorite local winery allowing adult to have free tastings.  I didn’t want to start the day drinking wine so we bypassed that booth, but took in several others along the Riverwalk.  We had just missed the opening event, the Mayor’s Tomato Challenge Race where contestants had to run a short course while carrying tomatoes in spoons.

Food was abundant.  The scent of burgers on the grill dominated the area and made our mouths water.  They had the requisite burgers and dogs, but they also had fried green tomatoes, crab cakes, and other grilled and fried delicacies.  We didn’t eat there.  One small cheeseburger was $6 and I’m a cheapskate.  We wandered around for quite a while.  Everyone was friendly, shouting out Hello and Hi to all the folks passing by.  Even though we arrive after the start up, it wasn’t too crowded.  I noticed a craft area for little kids and was impressed by the fact that it was free.  One booth was set up to sell festival gear and I got this:

Tomato Festival 4

The day was sunny and warm, but not hot.  At least, not to us.  Several venders tried to sell us hats or caps, but we declined.  Turned out to be the wrong thing for one of the three of us.  Since Partner/Spouse and I had been to this little town before, we were pointing out all the sites.  We had just arrived at the main area of the festival when we were startled by a loud clanking and boom.  Then a loudspeaker announced they were starting the Punkin Chuckin.  The intent was to launch pumpkins across the river.  Every few minutes, the clank and boom would sound and the pumpkin would launch based on some festival-goer’s aim.  None got across the river while we were there.

Then we found our prize!  One booth was set up for Friends of the Library here in our town.  And the ladies recognized us from the times we’d been in.  We didn’t go crazy, but we got several books, about a dozen, and paid only $6.  I think they cut us a break.  From there, we went to the local animal shelter’s booth and played with puppies and young dogs.  We explained that we have two rescued dogs and had just lost our third, so they didn’t press us too hard to take any home.  Partner/Spouse stopped at a booth where he talked with a volunteer organization for our town and county about controlled growth to maintain the area’s culture and history while still bringing in the jobs and growth necessary.  I was at a booth where there were sheep being sheared, and wool being spun into yarn.  The main topic of conversation was my t shirt which said “Sarcasm: the official language of the Irish”.

Our final stop for the day was at a booth where they had models of boat called skipjacks which run up and down the rive and the bay harvesting oysters.  Turns out they run tours out of our town, just a couple of miles from our house!

Tomato Festival 2

At 2pm was the great tomato war, but we weren’t there for that.  There was also a watermelon rolling contest, and a peach pit spitting contest.  Didn’t watch those either.  We were long gone by then.

Tomato Festival 1

2013 Kendall-Jackson Heirloom Tomato Festival | www.kitchenconfi

But, we were so inspired by the festival we went to our favorite farmer’s market and stocked up on various veggies, including tomatoes.

It was a fun day, a very small town kind of thing to do.  It was the kind of thing that I love and it was a blast for me.  I’m glad we went.


Post #662 Meanwhile, Back At The Festival

July 31, 2019 at 6:14 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

In the last post, I told you about the full on weekend we had and how fun it was.  The Festival was one of the highlights.  I love doing community outreach for the various hospitals Partner/Spouse has worked at.  One time, I got to be in charge of the music and a little girl asked me why I had pink-purple IPod.  She seemed satisfied with the answer that I kept losing the black ones.  Another time, I walked all around Tucson with a group of people who never introduced themselves to me, but we were walking for heart health so I didn’t care.

The Festival was to commemorate the founding of our fair metropolis and the heritage it entails.  It’s a yearly deal, and kind of a big deal, too.  I was impressed with everything I saw, although we didn’t get to see as much as I wanted.  We got there early to help set up, and walked from our house because it’s really a small town.  It took us about ten minutes to walk there.

I got to indulge in my favorite pastime – people watching.  We had a smoothie making machine powered by bicycle.  It’s a stationary bike, and the front wheel powered the blender.  One little boy, about nine decided he was going to make the first batch of smoothies.  His mom encouraged him and it took about twenty minutes.  He was pretty beat by the time it was done, but he looked like he was having fun, and the crowd kept shouting Attaboy! and Go Faster!  When the smoothie was 99% done, a little girl with arthritis and braces on her legs wanted to take a turn.  Her mom and I got her on the bike, and while I steadied her, her mom helped her pedal.  And she had a blast!  I bet no other smoothie tasted so good.

There were a ton of food trucks at one end of the fairway and I wished I had the room in my stomach to try them all because they were varied.  I think I told you I saw the lady with the maple sugar popcorn.  She also had the popcorn kernels for sale.  Shoulda bought some, but didn’t think about it till it was too late.

It put me in mind of the county Fair where I grew up.  It was a magical time for kids of any age when the Fair came to town.  Since it was a small town and agriculturally based, the Fair was a big deal for the 4H clubs and the boy scouts, etc.  I didn’t enter anything in the competitions, but several of my friends did, so we always went during the latter part of the day so we could see the exhibits, then spend time in the evening on the rides after it got dark and the midway was lit up like Christmas.  Rides are always better when the lights are shining bright.

The Fair always meant good food, and the best was always Indian Fry Bread.  Nowadays, they call them Indian tacos.  It’s basically bread dough that’s been shaped into a small ball to rest.  Then, just before cooking, it’s stretched out to a disk about 8-10 inches across.  It’s deep-fried in oil or lard until it’s puffy and golden brown.  Then comes the fun part, deciding what to put on it.  There were several choices but the two most popular were cinnamon and powdered sugar, and The Works.  The Works were refried beans, taco meat, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, salsa, and sour cream if you wanted it.  It was served flat but most people folded it up like a taco, hence it’s name change.  I always ate it flat.

For some reason, you couldn’t get this delicacy any time but at Fair time, at least not anywhere I knew about, so every day during the week of the Fair, I’d head over at lunch time, beg my free way inside, grab an Indian Fry Bread, then go back to work with it.  My mouth still waters.  I’ve made it myself once successfully.  So good.

Thoughts of home and food inevitably make me remember the mom of one of our pack of friends.  She was the kind of woman who would feed the stranger at her gate and never think twice about it.  I’ve seen her cook three turkeys for Thanksgiving for a club house do, and forget to make dinner for her family.  I know she was just expecting them to come with her when she served, but it surprised her that she forgot.  Of course, that year, the kids ate at our house.  I mentioned once that I liked Cheerios for breakfast sometimes, so she kept a box on hand for me.  It got stale over time, but I kept munching away at it till it was gone.  I used to call them donut seeds.

Quirky neighbors abounded in our neighborhood.  Must have been something in the water.  Our next door neighbors were “naturists”.  They had planted enough shrubbery and trees to mask most of the yard, so they could be as natural as they chose to be.  Whenever I saw them, he would be wearing a tiny speedo, and she would be wearing a tiny string bikini.  Trust me.  Neither of them should have been seen in those garments.

My brother came over one day with a  strange look on his face.  “Did you know the neighbors are nudists?”  I started laughing.  Apparently he had gone over to borrow a tool to fix his truck.  The guy had greeted him at the door naked while his wife was spread out on top of the couch in full view.

But meanwhile, back at the Festival, we were having a good time and watching people go by.  My eyes bugged out a bit when I saw a young man walking by strip to his underwear due to the heat.  His girlfriend/wife/significant other didn’t react, like this was completely normal behavior for him.

A few minutes later, I noticed an odd look on Partner/Spouse’s face and followed his gaze.  Up the street walking away from us was an older couple, and the woman wasn’t wearing a top.  She should have been.

But I’m told there are no laws against public nudity here.

And the funnel cakes and maple sugar popcorn were good.

Feel free to share the post, and as always,

Post #418 Freshest and Brightest Tomato Sauce Ever

September 23, 2015 at 11:30 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #418 Freshest and Brightest Tomato Sauce Ever

My mom passed away from cancer in June 0f ’91.  It wasn’t a very long battle, but at the beginning it was fiercely fought.  She and dad investigated a lot of adjunct treatments and one of those was the juice diet.  They purchased a top of the line juicer and proceeded to juice everything in site.  The theory was sound enough.  You juiced the whole vegetable or fruit, or piece of wood, and the juice came out spout having gone through some internal filters.  Those filters had to be cleaned after every use or they’d clog.  A simple tap to dislodge and a quick rinse, and the filter was ready for the next go round.  This juicer was a monster, weighed in at about twenty-five pounds.  Large and heavy, it was designed to stay on the counter or table and in constant use.  The leftover pulp could be used for cooking, or if you bypassed the filters, it could be left in the juice to be drunk.  It was a masticating juicer and the idea was that it would grind everything up and separate the solids from the liquid.

Mom used it once, then let it sit idle.  It was cumbersome, and she didn’t like the juice that came out of it.  It was too thick.  As she said, “The idea of celery juice is more appealing than the actuality of celery juice.”  Then they offered it to me and I gladly accepted and shipped it home.

Well, you know me, I read everything I could get my hands on about juicing and about this particular juicer.  I learned all its ins and outs; took it apart and put it back together with no extra parts left over, surprise; and I learned dozens of recipes for combining fruits and vegetables into tasty concoctions that would save wear and tear on our teeth and cause less stress on our stomach not having to breakdown cell walls to get nutrients.  At least, that was the claim.  Spurious, to say the least.  But I experimented and played and came up with some nice juices.  Sometimes I’d save the pulp and make muffins or breads, or paper, if I was juicing wood.  This monster could actually get juice out of wood.

2013 Kendall-Jackson Heirloom Tomato Festival | www.kitchenconfi

One evening, I stumbled across something when trying to make tomato juice so my ex could have a Bloody Mary.  She didn’t like just the juice, saying it had no body, so I put the filter bypass in and let all the seeds, pulp, and skin go through the juicer.  A thick watery mass came out and the flavor of the tomato shined.  I add the requisite ingredients (vodka) and she like it a lot.  But I was looking at the leftover and wondering what it would be like on pasta.  So, the next evening, I processed a few tomatoes, boiled up some pasta, added some dried herbs, heated the sauce, tossed it with the pasta, sprinkled on cheese and served it up.

It was spectacular!  It was the freshest, brightest pasta sauce we’d ever had.  The flavors of the tomatoes and herbs just bounced around the tongue.  Nothing was masked by anything else.  Each flavor stood on its own, distinct and identifiable, not in contrast but a perfect blending.   At that time, I didn’t know the tricks to helps sauce stick to pasta (I was still rinsing the pasta then) so it was really like eating a fresh tomato soup with pasta in it, but it was still very good.

We ate this for several weeks, but gradually tapered off as the novelty of the juicer waned, and the inconvenience of using it grew.  Eventually, I gave it away to someone who was far more into the juicing lifestyle than we were.  I went back to making my marinara sauce as usual, and over time forgot the brightest spaghetti sauce I’d ever made.

Last week, I was scrolling through my timeline on Facebook.  That’s a real chore that requires a certain dedication and a fairly large block of time.  I get most of my news from the internet now, so all of my news services are on my feed.  All my writer’s groups are on my feed.  All my friends are on my feed.  Most of my cooking input is on my feed.  If I don’t check my FB page at least every couple of hours, I may as well hang it up.  Some days, I only have time to check my alerts.  This day, I was scrolling fairly quickly through my timeline.  I tend to ignore every single video because I don’t always have time for a two minute investment.

One video made me stop.  I love the life hacks and cooking hacks that come my way.  Most are common sense; many show something I’ve been doing my whole life.  This one showed a way to prepare tomatoes that rocked me back in my chair, and it’s a swivel chair so it rocked me way back.  This guy made a full Italian meal of pasta and tomato sauce in under 15 minutes.  I watched the video and ran out to get what I needed.

I already had 98% of it.  I needed a box grater.  That was all.

box grater

Growing up, the only grater we had in the house was a box grater with four sides that had a shredder, a slicer, and two different mincers.  It was old, dented, and always looked vaguely unsavory, but it worked perfectly.  Now, of course, we have every mincer, slicer, grater, etc. in both manual and electronic.  Except a box grater.  So, I got it and the tray that came with it.  Then I stopped at the my favorite veggie stand cuz I did not have any large fresh tomatoes, oddly enough.

Here’s how this works.  Take a ripe tomato and cut it in half cross ways, not top to bottom.  Place a box grater in a large bowl and gently grate the flesh of the tomato into the bowl.  Be careful when you reach the skin, but when you do this gently, you’ll be left with only the skin in your hand and all the flesh and juice and seeds in the bowl.  Plan on one large ripe tomato per serving of pasta.  When the tomatoes are grated, push them through a fine mesh strainer into another bowl to remove the seeds.  I didn’t do this because we like the seeds.  You may not want to do this either.  Using a micro-plane, and mince one or two cloves of garlic into the tomato sauce.  Add a pinch of salt, and a tablespoon of olive oil for richness.  Add fresh or dried herbs of a kind you like.  I used fresh basil from my herb garden.  (New plants, no bugs.)  Then just add freshly boiled pasta directly to the sauce.  The heat from the pasta will “cook” the tomato sauce, of sorts, so it will be ready to eat immediately.  I topped our plates with parmesan cheese, more herbs, and served with toasted garlic bread.

It was yum, and mirrored the sauce from the juicer exactly.  And was way easier.  The entire meal was ready in under twenty minutes.


Post #672 That Second Meal

September 22, 2019 at 11:12 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It’s often been said that to stay fit and healthy you should eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.  It means that most of the calories you take in for the day should come early so you have time to work them off.  Don’t glut yourself at the end of the day.  I’ve always found that if I eat small, frequent meals during the day, I very seldom ever wake up hungry.  Those few times I do wake up hungry, I generally feel behind the calorie curve and work to “catch up” all day.  I’ve written about breakfast a few times on the blog.  Lord knows, I’m constantly writing about the evening meal.  I don’t think I’ve ever written specifically about lunch, and the meals that are associated with it.

There are many associations I have with the meal time of Lunch.  Mostly, it’s sandwiches and chips.  It goes back to childhood and what my mom would feed us at noon, or pack in our lunch bags.  It was usually PBJ, but there was also baloney and mustard and sometimes cheese.  During the colder months, a bowl of soup would accompany the sandwich.  We bought school lunches quite a bit, too, and I always got some form of a sandwich along with chips and a drink.  So, even now, in my sixth decade, I’m a sandwich kind of guy.

Once I started working and career building, lunch was that intrusion in the middle of the day.  The places I worked mostly didn’t have lunch facilities so I was forced to go out to get something.  Fast food became the de facto lunch and burgers and fries the substitute for sandwich and chips.  Then I started bringing leftovers from dinner the previous night, and changed my thinking to include salads.

Now, I work in a hospital.  Don’t worry; I’m in admin not patient care, and the job I do, while important, does not impact lives.  And the hospital has a cafeteria where we can buy breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  They always have pre-made things available, as well as a salad bar, and hot foods, snacks, bars, coffees, etc.  The worst part is we can pay for things either with cash, card, or our employee badge.  If we use our badge, it’s automatically deducted from our paycheck.  Since we don’t see it, it can build up with alarming speed.  When I first started working there, I tried the hot meals a couple of times, then tried the sandwich bar where they will make subs in the same manner as a sub shop.  Now, I just bring my lunch.  It’s easier, cheaper, and I don’t have to think about it.

So guess what I bring a lot of?  If you guessed sandwiches, you’d be right.

Except I often bring leftovers from dinner.  And I bring salads.  And I make things specifically to bring for lunch.

For instance, today I am making a package soup that’s one of my favorites.  It’s from Bear Creek and this particular one is tough to find.  When I see it, I usually grab a few of them.

It’s Creamy Wild Rice, but it uses no cream that I’ve found.  It makes a half gallon of the most flavorful soup ever in only a half hour.  I like it just as it is, but I also doctor it up.  Today, I’m adding some chopped up fresh chicken breast to cook in the soup.  In the past, I’ve added sliced fresh mushrooms (the cafeteria also makes a wild rice and mushroom soup, but I haven’t tried it yet.)  Once it’s cooled, I’ll divide it into containers and freeze them.  This company also makes pasta packages, but I haven’t tried them yet.  There other soups are good, too, but I don’t recommend the single-serving instant packages.  They don’t have the same long-cooked flavor.

Sometimes, when we’re having BLT Grandes for dinner, we’ll make plenty of extra bacon so we can take it to work for lunch.  I’ve discovered that if I want another BLT for lunch I should NOT put the tomatoes in it until I’m ready to eat.  The bread will turn to slime if left with the tomatoes for too long.  Even toasting won’t help.  And since the tomato harvest was so good in this area, the ripe tomatoes were plentiful, and the soggy bread was too.

The salad packages in the grocery store are excellent for side dinner salads, but they are also excellent for lunch salads.  We make them up just before leaving for work, and they’re perfect at lunch time.  We usually add extra veggies, cheese, and some meat or boiled eggs.  Partner/Spouse likes the chop salads, too, and will add plenty of extra stuff to get them to his liking.

One things we’ve been exploring recently are the instant pasta side dishes.  You have to read ingredients carefully and find ones that will work well with your particular dietary needs.  We make them the night before and doctor them up as we like.  Once they’ve cooled, they go into a container and into the fridge.  The next day, he will use a microwave to heat it up, but I just eat it cold directly out of the bowl.  I’m strange like that.  So far, I’ve tried just one that was chicken gravy over pasta with some herbs and some chopped chicken I added.  It was good-ish.

I also like to do things like crackers and cheese.  But I want cheese with flavor, and I want high quality crackers.  And I like to have cherry tomatoes, celery, and grapes with it when possible.

So what are your go to lunch meals?


This is an aside, but I have to tell you about it.  We went for a drive yesterday with no real plan or destination in mind and ended up in Stowe.  They were having an art festival and it was crowded and parking was impossible so we just went through without stopping.  But we found a year-round “farmer’s market” that we stopped at.  It was really more of an organic grocery store with whatever fresh local vegetables were available.

I found a basket of small tomatoes that were red and ripe so I got them.  You know, me and tomatoes, right?  They were much larger than cherry tomatoes, about the size of a golf ball and a half.  They are perfectly round and the flavor was so good!  I ate one in the car, and two more later in the afternoon.  So they’re going into lunches this week!-

Feel free to share far and wide, and as always,

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