Tuesday, December 22, 2009

3 Seasonal Treats

The season has come for treats and goodies, and though I'm not typically a chocolate person (ice cream is usually my sweet of choice), this winter I am craving dark chocolate delicacies -- and more. Here is my top 3 list this season:

Sipping Chocolate from Trader Joe's
This rich chocolate drink is amazingly better than any hot chocolate I have ever had. Most hot chocolate is too sweet and too thin. But this chocolate is deep, dark, and lightly sweet. Add it to hot whole milk, and you have the perfect winter drink.

Atkins Vanilla Caramel in Dark Chocolate
Something happens in the holiday season, and I invariably start craving caramels. I tried making them once, but I didn't pay enough attention to them and they didn't quite work out the way I had hoped. This year I found my happiness at Atkins Farms in their candy department in the form of vanilla caramels wrapped in dark chocolate. One of these satisfies a caramel/chocolate craving. Two of these brings a smile to my face.

Fresh Gingerbread with Hot Orange Sauce
This can't be purchased -- it must be made from scratch and eaten warm. Don't skimp on the spices in the gingerbread, and definitely don't skimp on the orange sauce -- smother the gingerbread with it and you won't be sorry. Delightful.

Treats for the season. Comfort foods for the darkness and cold. Enjoy!
Happy holidays!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Milk: Fresh, Local, and ... Raw

Raw milk first caught my attention when it was recommended to me in mid-May of 2009. A mother was explaining to me, in response to learning that my husband is lactose intolerant, that raw milk can often be drunk by those who are lactose intolerant -- that the pasteurization process kills important enzymes and bacteria that are actually beneficial to the processing power of the digestive system. She went on to tell me about her children and how much they love raw milk and how raw milk is the only milk they will drink.

I did a little research on the topic and then filed the information away for future reference.

That future came a few weeks ago when my husband came home from a farmer's market and started telling me about how raw milk had been recommended to him by someone else who was lactose intolerant but had no problems drinking raw milk. We did a little more research, had a bit of discussion, and decided we needed to try it.

There are a number of small dairies in Massachusetts that sell raw milk, and one of them, Flayvors of Cook Farm, happens to be right on my shopping route. So I made a visit to Cook Farms to put my name on the raw milk list (it is only available by pre-order), and I waited just under a week before picking up my first fresh gallon. We went through that gallon (just the two of us) in about 4 days -- and that was holding back; we've had to order more for subsequent weeks. I find it delicious, my husband can drink it without consequence, and it works wonderfully in recipes. (I'm looking forward to making authentic buttermilk with it one of these days.)

Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized -- milk that has not been heated to 160+ degrees in order to kill bacteria that can be found in the milk. The lack of heating helps it retain its natural vitamin content, enzymes, and amino acids. It is whole milk, and therefore higher in fat content (4.0% butterfat at Cook), which in my opinion just makes it taste better (I love a little cream, don't you?).

Raw milk is available at Flayvors of Cook Farm for $5/gallon or $2.75/half-gallon, day-of fresh on Mondays & Fridays.
More information about raw milk and where you can buy it in Massachusetts can be found on the NOFA (Northeast Farming Assocation) website.

Milk -- it does a body good! -- and this stuff is SO good, it does a body even better!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

School Closings, Take 2

Just a repost from last year around this time:

Where to Find School Closings for Belchertown, Amherst, Hadley, Ware, Palmer, Granby, and other local areas.

The links on this post are especially useful if you don't have cable access or if you don't want to wait while the cancellations scroll on and on and on.

Enjoy the winter!

PS -- I've added bunches of new events to the calendar. See below.

Winter Cardinal

I just can't help myself. Winter comes, the feeders go out, and all of a sudden I'm obsessed with birds. It's a hereditary obsession... my grandmother was also obsessed with birds and feeders, and my mother has quite a few birdfeeders in view of the windows of her house. We've added a few of new birds to the list since my last post: blue jays, a goldfinch, and a carolina wren -- a lovely little bird with a large voice -- the first wren I've seen!

Today's winter picture: one of our male cardinals. I love when the male and female come together, which they sometimes do in the evenings. I like to think they're on a date, trying out the new cuisine at The Deck Feeder, the new hotspot in town....


Saturday, December 5, 2009

All for the Birds

It must be a cold day in December -- the birds are out in full force at the feeders:

Hairy Woodpeckers
Red-bellied Woodpeckers
Downy Woodpeckers

Haven't seen the parakeet in a while, though my husband says it came by for a visit earlier this week.

And as I write this, a wintry mix has started falling from the grey sky. Time to curl up with a good book.

(Bird pictures coming later.)

Photographs and text copyrighted by Livin' In the Belch blog author, unless otherwise stated.