Granola

  • 2½ cups (222 grams) old-fashioned rolled oats
  • ¼ to ½ cup chopped nuts
  • ¼ cup sesame/poppy seeds
  • 3 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • ⅓ cup maple syrup
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 310ºF.

In the largest bowl you have, mix the dry ingredients together. In a smaller container, mix the wet ingredients together.

Combine the dry and wet ingredients, mixing them thoroughly. Clean hands work well for this.

Spread the raw granola loosely on a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Stir, then pack down firmly with a spatula or a wooden spoon. This will leave you with big clumps of the finished granola.

Bake for another 15 minutes, during which time your kitchen will smell very, very good. If you’ve managed to get yourself in trouble with a wife or boyfriend, this will boost you 50 percent of the way out of the hole you’re in.

Remove from the oven and let cool for at least half an hour.

Eat it with — Oh, come on! It’s granola. You know what to do with it.

This is a solid delicious granola with a hint of saltiness and a tiny kick of spiciness. The great thing about this particular recipe — or any granola recipe, when you come down to it — is how adaptable it is:

Oats – This is probably the only ingredient you can’t mess with too much, but if you happen to run across some rolled barley or something, I’m pretty sure that would work too. Granola is very forgiving.

Nuts – You’re pretty wide open to improvisation here. I generally use roasted, salted nuts; my favorites are pistachios or pecans, but I’ll bet peanuts would be delicious. I’m very much not a walnut guy, but if you like them, they’d probably be delicious. My wife has asked me to use shredded coconut next time I make this.

Seeds – Again, it’s probably hard to go wrong with any seeds. I tend to fall back on a 50/50 mix of sesame and poppy seeds, but I’ve had good luck with hemp seeds. Sunflower kernels or pepitas (Mexican pumpkin seeds) would probably be excellent too. If you end up using a higher volume of seeds, add a little more of the liquid ingredients.

Brown sugar – Could you replace this with maple sugar or jaggery (Indian fermented brown sugar)? I don’t see why not.

Seasonings – You have just as many options here, but you might want to take a moment to think through any spices you add to your granola. I took this particular granola to a potluck breakfast at work once and the cayenne pepper made an otherwise kind and gentle coworker almost take a swing at me. I grew up in Vermont, at a time when salt and pepper was seen as dangerously adventurous. I should have remembered that people in this part of the world feel vaguely — or apparently not so vaguely — threatened by spicy food. With that said, I misread my notes and almost added cardamom to this recipe instead of cinnamon, and I think that might actually work. Your mileage may vary.

Oil – This recipe calls for vegetable oil, because it has a fairly neutral flavor and a high smoke point, but I’ve substituted hazelnut oil before and was very pleased.

Maple syrup – Honey works well here. If you’ve made syrup for cocktails — ginger or raspberry syrup for instance — that would work well, too.

Chocolate chips, M&Ms or gummy bears – Save them for your trail mix. If you decide to try them in your granola, mix them in after it is made and cooled. They wouldn’t make it through the baking process intact.

Featured photo: Granola. Photo by John Fladd.

Flavors of Girl Scout cookie season

Girls learn sales and leadership skills while selling Samoas and Thin Mints

Girl Scout cookie season is underway, combining tasty treats with the opportunity to support local youth initiatives. Ginger Kozlowski, communications and public relations manager for Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains, and Sheila Morris, a troop leader in Concord, talked about this year’s sales, including how to buy cookies, the impact of New Hampshire’s Cookie Weekend, troop goals and ways to support without buying cookies.

What are the different ways people can purchase Girl Scout cookies across New Hampshire this season?

Kozlowski: It’s great to interact with a Girl Scout at her cookie booth. You will help her see that people support Girl Scouts and she will be happy to tell you all about the cookies and her goals. Booths are all over the place, but only until March 17. You can find a cookie booth near you by visiting girlscoutcookies.com and entering your zip code.

Tell us about the governor’s proclamation of Cookie Weekend and how you anticipate that impacting cookie sales.

Kozlowski: We are happy that Gov. Sununu proclaimed Feb. 16 through Feb. 18 Girl Scout Cookie Weekend in New Hampshire. We hope it will help us celebrate by supporting the Girl Scout Cookie program, which funds so much of our activities. Did you know that all the proceeds stay local?

Morris: Our troop has set a goal to sell 7,000 boxes of cookies so we can take one last big trip in 2025.

What are some of the goals or activities that local Girl Scouts are aiming to fund with the proceeds from this year’s cookie sales?

Kozlowski: Many Girl Scouts put their cookie proceeds toward summer camp, membership, community action projects, and fund cool experiences. On Facebook, Girl Scouts have posted goals like going to Space Camp and helping a women’s shelter food pantry. Many are looking forward to field trips.

Morris: We are known as the ‘travel troop.’ Our main focus has been travel and community service. We’re looking forward to kayaking and hiking in August in the Lakes Region and taking one last big trip in 2025. These trips have been amazing. They have given girls new adventures and bonding. Some of these girls might never travel without this troop. To see a girl overcome her anxiety to do something is priceless. To see them enjoy new experiences is delightful. The trips have also given them travel skills in budgeting, exploring places to go, getting around and safety. We also have tried to do a service project on our trips when it is possible. For example, we spent a day at a local school doing crafts and teaching them games and songs when we went to St. Lucia last spring. This is such a rewarding experience.

Can you explain the ‘Unbox the Future’ theme and how cookie sales help Girl Scouts achieve this vision?

Kozlowski: Unbox the Future simply refers to how you support the growth and future of girls by buying Girl Scout cookies. Girl Scouting is all about giving girls the opportunity to explore the world and follow their dreams in a supportive environment. Our mission is to create young women of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place.

Morris: And I see that in all my Girl Scouts. I have seen them come out of their shell and become a confident leader. I have seen them mentor younger girls. I have seen them learn to discuss and decide as a group, while being respectful of different opinions. It’s amazing to see them tackle community issues or plan an overseas trip.

What are some key skills that Girl Scouts are learning through cookie sales?

Kozlowski: Oh, that’s easy. Girl Scouts is the largest girl-led entrepreneurial program in the world, so we have five specific skills we find essential to leadership, success and life in general: goal-setting, decision-making, money management, people skills and business ethics.

Morris: I have seen these girls flourish in all aspects when dealing with the public at booths and become more confident as the years have gone by. I have personally seen my Girl Scouts grow in all these areas. And isn’t that what every parent wants for their child?

For those looking to support local Girl Scouts but who may not want cookies themselves, what options do they have for contributing to the troops?

Kozlowski: The Council’s Gift of Caring program is perfect for this. Every Girl Scout has the ability to take donations at their cookie booth to put toward this program, which provides cookies to the military and hometown heroes. And if you don’t run across a cookie booth by March 17 when sales end, you can still donate at the council’s website at girlscoutsgwm.org.

Morris: If you do that at our cookie booth, you will also directly help our Girl Scouts.

Cookies!
Here are this year’s cookie flavors, according to girlscoutsgwm.org. Cookies cost $6 per box.

Adventurefuls — “brownie-inspired cookies topped with caramel flavored creme”
Do-Si-Dos — “oatmeal sandwich cookies with a peanut butter filling”
Girl Scout S’mores — “graham sandwich cookies with chocolatey and marshmallowy flavored filling”
Lemon-Ups — “crispy lemon cookies”
Samoas — “crisp cookies with caramel, coconut and chocolatey stripes”
Tagalongs — “crispy cookies layered with peanut butter and covered with a chocolatey coating”
Thin Mints — “chocolatey cookies made with natural oils of peppermint”
Toffee-Tastic — gluten-free buttery cookies with toffee bits
Trefoils — “shortbread cookies”

Featured photo: Photo courtesy of GSUSA.

The Weekly Dish 24/02/22

News from the local food scene

Bourbon dinner: The Homestead’s Bristol location (1567 Summer St.; 744-2022, homesteadnh.com) will hold a Penelope Bourbon Dinner on Tuesday, March 5, at 6:30 p.m., with a sparkling wine reception at 6 p.m. The cost for a four-course pairing dinner is $90 per person. The dinner includes cheese & crackers and crudites with the sparkling wine, bourbon brown sugar smoked salmon latke with creme fraiche as the first course, crispy pork belly taco with a smoky bourbon mole for a second course, Bourbon Street glaze filet for the third course and vanilla bean panna cotta and bourbon caramel sauce with a grilled peach flambe for the fourth course, according to an email. Call for reservations.

Cider flights: The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire (6 Washington St. in Dover; childrens-museum.org, 742-2002) will host an adults-only (21+) Cider Flights & Tasty Bites night featuring North Country Hard Cider on Saturday, March 23, from 7 to 9 p.m. Taste five of North Country’s hard ciders and enjoy eats from area restaurants, according to the website. Tickets cost $35 per person, $25 for designated drivers; a VIP admission ticket for $50 ($35 for a driver) includes a 6:30 p.m. entry and an extra cider pour (for the non-drivers). Purchase tickets online.

New owner: According to a Concord Monitor article first published on Feb. 7, “a team including the owner of Tandy’s Top Shelf in Concord bought Hermanos Cocina Mexicana.” The new owners plan to keep Hermanos the same, according to a quote from Greg Tandy in the article. The story also reported that Vinnie’s Pizzaria is reopening soon.

Trivia and beer: TailSpinner Brewery (57 Factory St., with an entrance at 40 Water St., in Nashua; ramblingtale.com) hosts trivia nights on Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m., with seating starting at 6 p.m., according to the Brewery’s Facebook page.

Saucey: The Salem-NH-based Cucina Aurora, known for its infused oils, mixes and coffees among other items, has new jarred marinara sauces. The Magical Marinara comes in Roasted Garlic Pomodoro and Sweet Basil Pomodoro and costs $10.99 on the website. See cucinaaurora.com, where you can find a list of places that sell Cucina Aurora products.

The Brain Cell

About a week ago I found a truly excellent photo online of Walter the Muppet and the Great Gonzo posing for a selfie at Epcot Center. If you are unsure who Walter and Gonzo are, just know that they are extremely cool to nerdy Muppet enthusiasts.

I saved the picture to a file on my computer, not entirely sure what I would do with it. I have a habit of doing this; I have a collection of hundreds of funny, strange or just interesting pictures to attach to emails or use in presentations. I never know when one of them might come in handy, so I keep them around, just in case. Yes, I suppose this is hoarding, but it’s digital hoarding, so at least I can still navigate my living room.

After an hour or so, I thought, “You know who would love this picture? The Artist.” Our only child is a freshman at art school in Chicago, and this might make a nice surprise.

So I uploaded the photo to a drug store to be printed. Later that afternoon I picked up my prints, then went to an art supply store and bought a frame. I had to juggle a couple of cards and my cellphone at the register while I tried to find a coupon for the frame, and ended up throwing everything into my bag as I left the store, because I didn’t want to hold up the line behind me.

When I mailed the framed Muppet photo to The Artist, I used the art supply store bag as cushioning, to protect the glass in the frame, and long story short, I’m pretty sure I mailed my debit card to Chicago.

I’ve dedicated this week’s cocktail to my lone remaining brain cell.

The Brain Cell

  • 1 ounce Ol’ Major Bacon Bourbon
  • 1 ounce Howler Head Banana Bourbon
  • 1 ounce Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey
  • 1 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1 ounce ginger beer – not ginger ale; this drink needs the extra bit of ginger
  • 4 drops Tabasco sauce

Combine all three whiskeys, the lime juice, and the Tabasco over ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake to chill.

Add the ginger beer and stir gently.

Strain over fresh ice in a rocks or coupé glass.

Sip, while listening to “Yalili Ya Aini,” by Jah Wobble’s Invaders of the Heart. It’s a strange and beautiful song that will match your — OK, my — mental state.

This can be a slightly befuddling cocktail, even before you make it. The list of its ingredients are surprising, perhaps even intimidating. Bourbon, bacon, banana and peanut butter don’t seem to make a lot of sense together. And yet the combination works.

Many people are familiar with an “Elvis Sandwich” — peanut butter and banana. It seems pleasantly wacky, but the sweetness of the banana complements the proteiny solidity of the peanut butter. What most people don’t know is that the sandwich Elvis Presley actually loved was a grilled peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwich. There’s a common thread there of saltiness, sweetness and umami. (Clearly, my own exhausted brain cells have a strange priority in what they are dedicated to.)

So there’s our drink’s whiskey taken care of. We know that bourbon pairs well with sweet tastes, and certainly with other whiskeys. But won’t that leave this drink too sweet? It would, if not for the lime juice, which brings everything back in line. Its acidity and fruitiness pair well with the peanut butter and banana flavors.

The ginger beer and the Tabasco give a little bit of a bite to the operation, and the ginger beer also adds a slight tingle of effervescence.

This is one of those cocktails that comes at you in waves. The bacon and peanut butter hit you first, followed by fruity, tingly aftertaste. You’ll know that you like it, as soon as you taste it, but you will probably drink at least two of these, trying to wrap your head around it.

Without having to go to Chicago.

Featured photo: The Brain Cell. Photo by John Fladd.

Get a taste of Africa

Learn from Mola Foods founder at Nashua North this spring

By Eleanor Quarles
food@hippopress.com

LaFortune Djabea, founder of local African food company Mola Foods, is bringing African cooking to New Hampshire. This spring Djabea will be hosting an African cooking course as one of Nashua Adult Education’s enrichment programs. The class will run on Thursday evenings from March 28 to June 6 at Nashua High School North.

The goal of the course is to introduce people to African foods and dive into the history and culture of the cuisine.

“Those who want to learn are welcome to join and learn how to cook authentic African food the simplest way possible,” Djabea said. The class is not only about introducing new dishes, but also about adapting them to be made easily at home.

If you’re still a beginner chef, don’t feel intimidated. When Djabea started learning to cook at 10 years old, she “didn’t have any knife skills or anything like that … you just jump in and start!” she said. The class is open to all abilities. The only thing you need is a willingness to learn, she said.

Growing up in Cameroon, Djabea learned how to cook dishes from all over Africa. She credits this experience to Cameroon’s unique diversity among African countries.

“Cameroonians call themselves ‘the continent,’ as in the African continent, because we have all the other African countries [represented] in Cameroon,” she said. That environment gave her versatility, and she has a passion for sharing that with the community through her business, Mola Foods.

While the specific dishes taught in the class are still to be decided, Djabea shared two of her personal go-tos when introducing people to African cuisine. She likes to make thieboudienne, a Senegalese rice dish with fish and vegetables, of which Cameroon has its own Jollof version.

Another one of her favorites is ndolé, a classic Cameroonian dish made with ndolé (also known as bitter leaf) and meat or shrimp in a peanut sauce, eaten with boiled plantains or fermented cassava. When washed well, the ndolé leaves have a distinct bittersweet taste to them. To easily make the dish in New Hampshire, she often replaces ndolé with spinach, as it’s much easier to get, and peanuts with cashews, to accommodate peanut allergies.

African cuisine tends to be flexible that way. You can make a lot of dishes to be vegetarian, vegan, pescetarian, etc. Most diets can be accommodated, Djabea said.

In the class, students will get the chance to practice with everything: meat, poultry, fish and vegetables. They’ll use Mola Food’s spice blends to season dishes authentically without having to hunt down specific spices and ingredients that could be hard to find in stores here.

Mola Foods also hosts Taste of Africa dinners, where diners get a chance to try cuisine that is usually completely new to them. And these are not just food events; they’re cultural experiences with music, dancing and conversation. Djabea finds that some people come into the dinners not understanding African cuisine or having preconceived notions about it, but when they try the food, they love it.

There are 54 countries in Africa, she pointed out, so it’s impossible to get a taste of every country or even every region in one dinner, and every dinner is unique. There are not currently any upcoming Taste of Africa events scheduled, but they will be returning in the future.

It’s Djabea’s first time formally instructing a cooking course, but it’s not her “first rodeo” as an instructor, she said. She taught her kids and her best friend how to cook African cuisine, and before Mola Foods, she was a medical coding instructor for several years.

“It’s heartwarming to be able to go back and be an instructor again, this time just doing something that I love to do. I am excited to share the gift of cooking that my grandmother taught me when I was younger with the rest of the community that wants to join me,” she said.

African Cooking class
When: Thursdays, March 28 through June 6, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Where: Nashua High School North, 8 Titan Way, Nashua
Cost: $105 for Nashua residents, $130 for non-residents, plus $100 fee for lab/food
Register: www.nashua.edu/domain/213

Featured photo: Courtesy photo.

The Weekly Dish 24/02/15

News from the local food scene

Unwined open: The wine bar Unwined (1 Nashua St. in Milford; unwinednh.com) was slated to hold its grand opening on Tuesday, Feb. 13, and will be opening for reservations only through February, according to a post on its Facebook page, where you can also get a look at its menu. Offerings include bar snacks (such as curry toasted chickpeas and hand-cut fries with feta cheese, lemon zest and garlic oil served with a house aioli), salads, tapas (such as cheesy arancini, creamy bacon Brussels sprouts and fried calamari, as well as a mezze platter and cheese board), entrees and desserts.

Goings on at WineNot: On Thursday, Feb. 22, from 4 to 7 p.m., WineNot Boutique (25 Main St. in Nashua; winenotboutique.com) will hold a “Tasting of Big and Bold Winter Wines.” Admission costs $25. The evening will feature 15 wines paired with cheeses and a light appetizer, according to the event website.

Tasty vacation camp: The Culinary Playground (16 Manning St. in Derry; culinary-playground.com, 339-1664) has some vacation week classes for kids. On Tuesday, Feb. 27, there’s an adult and child (age 5+) “Homemade pizza and cupcake decorating” class at 3 p.m. ($45 for an adult/child team). On Wednesday, Feb. 28, there’s a “Sushi for T(w)eens” class at 3 p.m.; an adult/child team will make veggie and California rolls for $55. On Thursday, Feb. 29, from 3 to 5 p.m. there’s a “Make-A-Meal” class (featuring baked chicken chimichanga, Mexican rice and Tres Leches Cake) for $58 for an adult/kid pair (8+).

Mardi Gras takes the cake

Special dessert sweetens pre-Lent festivities

They don’t call it Fat Tuesday for nothing.

Celebrated around the globe with exuberant parades, exotic masks and the throwing of colorful beads and trinkets, Mardi (the French word for “Tuesday”) Gras (which means “fat”) is renowned for gastronomic indulgence, and Mardi Gras King Cake is the ultimate tasty extravagance.

Just ask Denise Nickerson, owner of The Bakeshop on Kelley Street, who knows a thing or two about delicious treats. A graduate of a Le Cordon Bleu-affiliated school, Nickerson has training in French cooking and baking that made her aware of the significance of using real butter, vanilla and heavy cream and not scrimping in any way.

“You can taste the difference,” she said. “And our customers can taste the difference.”

Mardi Gras King Cakes, which harken back to the story of the three kings who paid homage to the newly born Jesus, are a staple of Carnival and have been sold at The Bakeshop since the year it opened. “I opened The Bakeshop in 2010 with the intent of sharing some of my favorite sandwiches and desserts — I love dessert! — and have been successfully selling them for the past almost 15 years,” Nickerson said. “I am always excited to make Mardi Gras King Cakes as they are whimsical, delicious, and, of course, have a baby inside!”

According to Mardi Gras tradition, the lucky individual who finds the tiny figurine hidden in the bread is considered king or queen for the day and is encouraged to provide a cake for the following year’s festivities, host a party, or otherwise perpetuate the revelry.

“Mardi Gras King Cakes are sweet and fun to make,” Nickerson said about the treats, which are said to have originated in France and made their way to New Orleans in the late 19th century. “They are made with our sweet bread recipe, spread with our cinnamon butter, rolled and then formed into a circle or ring. As we roll them, we place the plastic baby in the bread. Next comes a coating of glaze and then the fun part — alternate colors of purple, yellow and green sprinkles, which represent Mardi Gras season.” (According to historians, the colors used to decorate these Carnival confections signify justice, power and faith.) “The cakes are then boxed or placed on pastry trays, and we like to add a couple of Mardi Gras bead necklaces to help in the celebration.”

Mardi Gras is always the day before Ash Wednesday, offering believers one last chance to binge on rich foods before the beginning of the austere season of Lent, a 40-day period leading up to Easter Sunday that emphasizes abstinence, fasting and repentance.

Fat Tuesday, which this year falls on Feb. 13, is not surprisingly The Bakeshop on Kelley Street’s biggest day of Mardi Gras King Cake sales, “but we are willing and able to make them anytime for any celebration,” said Nickerson, adding, “Pre-ordering is recommended as we tend to run out quickly!” The Bakeshop will also open its doors on Tuesday, when it is normally closed, to keep up with the seasonal demand.

In addition to Mardi Gras King Cakes and other cakes of all kinds, the Manchester bake shop and cafe is well-known for its array of doughnuts, pies and pastries, as well as a savory menu featuring quiche, soups, chili, and sandwiches served on their own freshly baked bread.

“A lot of my recipes were passed down from my grandmothers, mother, sister and aunts,” said Nickerson. “I’ve found that many people relate to them, as they are simple reminders of flavors and tastes from childhood and beyond. Also, most importantly, using ingredients that are high-quality and often come from local growers and producers makes having a dessert worth it. I always say, if you are going to have dessert, make sure it’s something made well and worth it!”

Nickerson readily admitted that “not everyone might know about the King Cakes.” However, she added, “the ones that do [know] or that try them [for the first time] always come back. It’s a celebration of sweetness and a way to … be a part of the Mardi Gras season.”

Mardi Gras King Cake
The Bakeshop on Kelley Street
171 Kelley St., Manchester
624-3500
thebakeshoponkelleystreet.com

Featured photo:King Cake. Courtesy Photo.

Feeling chili?

Try Amherst’s best at the Lions Club cookoff

Warm up on a chilly Friday night at Fire & Ice, the Amherst Lions Club’s 8th annual chili cookoff and ice cream social. The event takes place Friday, Feb. 9, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Amherst Middle School.

Entrants will be serving 2 gallons of chili each in people’s choice, restaurant, and Lions Club categories. The chili is all you can eat until the slow cookers are empty.

“You go through the line and you can select as many different kinds of chilis as you want,” explained Amherst Lion Joan Ferguson. Each contestant has a number that is written on their bowls, so you can keep track of your favorites and go back for seconds if you wish.

A panel of judges will be grading the chilis on taste, smell, heat, creativity and presentation. The judges will select the winner for the restaurant and Lions Club categories, and give feedback on the people’s choice entries as well. However, attendees vote for the people’s choice winner. While people’s choice could theoretically be awarded to any category, in the history of the event an individual has always won people’s choice, said Ferguson.

This year’s judges will be Dan DeCourcey, Up in Your Grill owner and pitmaster; Amherst Police Chief Anthony Ciampoli, and local chili connoisseur Chad Camirand, described by Ferguson as having a “discriminating palate.”

Expect a wide variety of chilis, including some you may never have encountered before. There are usually traditional recipes, green chili, veggie, chicken and more, said Ferguson. One year, Cincinnati Chili, traditionally served over spaghetti, was a big hit. In 2020 two middle school students worked with their aunt to make a chili with great ingredients and spices and won people’s choice.

On the divisive debate of beans or no beans, Feguson said, “It’s about evenly divided — it really and truly is.”

The restaurant category this year will include an entry from previous winner Moulton’s Kitchen and Market. The Amherst Lions will be going head to head with the Bedford Lions for the best Lions Club chili, which no club has ever won consecutively.

Each winner will get a silver bowl trophy to keep until next year’s event, engraved with their name. They’ll also get a long-handled wooden spoon engraved with ‘Chili Master.’ And of course, they get to brag about having the best chili in town for a whole year.

The event will also include a make-your-own ice cream sundae bar, hot dogs, face painting, and a visit from Officer Berry — a yellow lab puppy who is Amherst Police Department’s new therapy dog. Weather permitting, there will also be ice skating and a bonfire at the school’s outdoor rink.

The Lions Club will also be providing free eye screenings, one of their philanthropic causes, and they’ll be raffling off a Napoleon Rogue propane grill.

“Winter is getting a little long in the tooth by February,” Ferguson said, so several years ago a member of the club came up with this event so the town could gather over a meal. “The community is able to get together on a cold winter’s night — there’s eating, there’s entertainment, there’s a lot of talking. It’s good to get everyone out of the house.”

If you want to try all the chilis, especially the crowd favorites, make sure you come early.

“Their Crockpots tend to empty out well before the two hours are up,” Ferguson said.

Fire & Ice Chili Cookoff and Ice Cream Social
When: Friday, Feb. 9, 5 to 7 p.m.
Where: Amherst Middle School, 14 Cross Road, Amherst
Tickets: $10 for adults, $6 for children 7 to 12, free for ages 6 and under. Families of four or more can buy a family ticket for $30. Purchase tickets at e-clubhouse.org/sites/amherstnh or at the door.

Featured photo: Last year’s chili cooks Irene Pyle (left) and granddaughter Charley Pyle will return to the Fire & Ice competition Feb. 9th at the Amherst Middle School.

Local farmers get together

NOFA winter conference fosters community

The Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Hampshire (NOFA-NH) will host its 22nd annual Winter Conference on Saturday, Feb. 10, at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester. The event will include panel discussions, workshop sessions, awards and a keynote address by off-grid homesteader Philip Ackerman-Leist.

“As one of the founding chapters of the Northeast Organic Farming Association dating back to the early 1970s, NOFA-NH began with the hope of bringing together the organic community and building traction for the important work of sustainable agriculture in our state and region,” said event coordinator Kyle Jacoby. “The conference has taken on many shapes and sizes over the years, but some things remain the same. Every conference is filled with impactful workshops, local organizations and businesses, delicious food, a keynote address, and community bonding.”

According to Jacoby, the Winter Conference helps to foster the Granite State’s organic farming and gardening community, allowing participants to share knowledge, get energized, and support local, sustainable, healthy food.

“Every event is a place to continue learning and understanding organic practices, have discussions about our local food networks, connect with others in the community to discuss how to work together, recognize members of the community who are doing valuable work, and build enthusiasm for the work ahead,” Jacoby said.

NOFA-NH’s Winter Conference typically welcomes 200 to 300 people from throughout New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts, Jacoby said. “This includes farmers, gardeners, nonprofit management, food distributors, politicians, students, educators and more. Members of this entire community convene at the Winter Conference because of the workshops that are offered, networking opportunities, and the chance to engage in important dialogue about the future of food in our state.”

Workshop topics will include growing techniques, business strategies, food systems, crop management, best practices for high tunnel construction, making tea from your garden, creating a diverse, inclusive and equitable food system in New Hampshire, policy and regulatory tools for small food producers, perfecting greenhouse tomatoes, and more. Sessions are geared toward farmers, gardeners, nonprofit professionals, educators, and community members interested in local food, sustainable agriculture, and cultivating community.

“The conference is also a perfect opportunity to learn new skills, develop important connections with local organizations and businesses, and recognize members of our community and the work they are doing,” Jacoby said.

This year’s keynote speaker is Philip Ackerman-Leist, author of A Precautionary Tale: How One Small Town Banned Pesticides, Preserved its Food Heritage, and Inspired a Movement and Rebuilding the Foodshed: How to Create Local, Sustainable, and Secure Food Systems.

“Philip has an incredible history of the past four decades exploring what it means to have a sustainable and equitable food system,” Jacoby said. “We are excited to hear the stories from his experiences with policy efforts for pesticide-free communities, ‘aha!’ moments in educational systems, innovative shifts in local supply chains, lessons in agritourism, and increased financial support for ecological stewardship.” Ackerman-Leist’s address will highlight some of his experiences collecting stories of food systems across the U.S. and abroad.

Involved with NOFA-NH for two years, Jacoby acknowledges the dedicated team, passionate volunteers, members, and supporters who work together toward a more local, just and sustainable food system.

“It is a joy to work with these people and celebrate the successes of our work,” Jacoby said. “You can see how gratifying that is at the Winter Conference when we present awards to members of our community to recognize the amazing work they are doing and have done. We certainly have challenges ahead but also so much to be proud of and grateful for.”

NOFA-NH annual Winter Conference
When: Saturday, Feb. 10
Where: Southern New Hampshire University, 2500 N. River Road, Manchester; check-in at dining center, workshops at Robert Frost Hall
Tickets: available on a sliding scale ranging from $20 (keynote only) to $125.
More: www.nofanh.org

Featured photo: Courtesy photo.

The Weekly Dish 24/02/08

News from the local food scene

Valentine’s Day is Wednesday, Feb. 14, and if you haven’t made those dinner reservations yet, now is definitely the time. A few of the dinner and take out offerings announced on area restaurants’ websites and social media pages include:

Averill House Vineyard in Brookline (averillhousevineyard.com) has multiple Valentine’s Day themed events on its schedule including a Galentine’s Felting Workshop & Wine Tasting on Friday, Feb. 9, at 6 p.m.; Valentine’s Bottle Your Own Experience at various times Sundays, Feb. 11, and Feb. 18; Valentine’s Igloo Experience Dinner & Wine Pairing on Wednesday, Feb. 14, at 7 p.m., and a five-course dinner and wine pairing, also on Valentine’s Day at 7 p.m.

The Bakeshop on Kelley Street in Manchester (thebakeshoponkelleystreet.com) has chocolate covered strawberries, among other sweet treats.

Bedford Village Inn in Bedford (bedfordvillageinn.com) is offering a four-course meal for $125 per person with seating times between 5 to 9:30 p.m. See the website for the menu (which includes options for either desserts for sharing or a dessert of your own) and to reserve a table.

Birch Wood Vineyards in Derry (birchwoodvineyards.com) has a four-course dinner planned (doors open at 6 p.m. for a cocktail hour before dinner) with a vegetarian option — $95 or $120 with wine pairing. Call to reserve by Sunday, Feb. 11.

Bistro 603 in Nashua (bistro603nashua.com) will offer its Valentine’s Day specials Feb. 14 through Thursday, Feb. 22, ccording to a Facebook post.

Order chocolate-covered strawberries from Buckley’s in Merrimack or Hollis by Monday, Feb. 12, for a Valentine’s Day pickup. A half-pound is $18, a full pound is $36.

The Farm Bar & Grille in Manchester (farmbargrille.com) will have a Valentine Trivia Night at 8 p.m. with food and drink specials to go with Heathers rom-com related trivia.

• Check out the menu of specials at Firefly in Manchester (fireflynh.com), which includes a red velvet cheesecake and the strawberry chocolate old-fashioned. The specials will be offered along with the regular menu.

Frederick’s Bakery in both Amherst and Bedford (pastry.net) has offerings including single-serving desserts like cookies and cupcakes, full-size cakes, chocolates and chocolate-covered strawberries and a Valentine’s cookie decorating kit.

Giorgio’s (giorgios.com) has a special on its website for Sunday, Feb. 11 (game day) — reasonable people can argue over which is the bigger holiday. On Feb. 14, Manchester and Milford Giorgio’s are open from 4 to 9 p.m. and Merrimack is open from noon to 8 p.m., according to the website, where you can make reservations.

Granite State Candy Shoppe in Manchester and Concord (granitestatecandyshoppe.com) has a variety of Valentine’s offerings including chocolate-dipped strawberries; red foil wrapped heart-shaped and lip-shaped chocolates; heart boxes with chocolates, and more.

The Grazing Room at Colby Hill Inn in Henniker (colbyhillinn.com) will have seatings 4 to 8 p.m.; see the evening’s menu on the website.

The Hills Restaurant at Hampshire Hills Athletic Club in Milford (hampshirehills.com) will have its Valentine Specials menu available Tuesday, Feb. 13, through Saturday, Feb. 17.

LaBelle Winery (labellewinery.com) has multiple Valentine’s- and chocolate-themed events at its Derry and Amherst locations. Events that, as of Feb. 5, had openings include a Valentine’s Day dinner with ballroom dancing in Derry on Saturday, Feb. 10; a Sinatra in Love dinner with performer Rich DiMare and the Iron Poster Trio in Amherst on Wednesday, Feb. 14, and Cooking with Wine & Chocolate classes in Amherst (Feb. 15) and Derry (Feb. 21).

Murphy’s in Manchester posted a drinks menu that includes items such as Chocolate Craze (vanilla vodka, chocolate liqueur and Baileys with a chocolate drizzle) and Cotton Candy Kiss (Champagne with a cotton candy base). Murphy’s Taproom & Carriage House in Bedford has a Valentine’s Day prix fixe menu for $60 per person as well as a romantic dining package for $40 per couple; see murphystaproom.com/holiday.

Pearls Candy and Nuts in Windham (pearlscandynh.com) has a variety of themed offerings including red foil wrapped chocolate hearts.

Van Otis Chocolates in Manchester and Wolfeboro (vanotis.com) has a variety of Valentine’s treats including chocolate-dipped bottles, special boxed chocolates, gift boxes, chocolate-dipped strawberries and more.

• Maybe you can’t go to Europe for Valentine’s Day but you can get candies and chocolates that come from Europe at Viking House in Concord (vikinghouse.com), which is open from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Wednesdays.

Vine Thirty Two in Bedford (vinethirtytwo.com) is offering a “Partners in Wine” special Wednesday, Feb. 14, through Friday, Feb. 16 — $100 includes two $25 wine cards, a five-item charcuterie board and a dessert to share.

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