Emily’s Home Cooking

The Common Ground

I grew up without siblings or extended family but I always had a magical & chaotic Thanksgiving! ✨
There was an employee-owned restaurant called The Common Ground in Brattleboro that was the first vegetarian restaurant in Vermont when it opened in 1971.

But they served meat one day a year – Turkey Day – at a volunteer-run free community meal. The restaurant staff wanted folks to have company and a familiar meal, and knew preventing loneliness and hunger far outweighed any notions of dietary morality.

So, we roasted dozens of huge donated birds and made gravy, stuffing, squash, green beans, mashed potatoes. We served cider, apple crisp, and pumpkin pie with ice cream. Stuffed squash with cashew gravy for the vegetarian main. People who couldn’t come called in orders all day and they were boxed up and delivered.

That’s what I did every year on Thanksgiving growing up: spend hours prepping vegetables the evening before, returning early in the morning to cook. The children volunteers were dispatched as servers (with real ticket books!): who wanted dark or white meat or a vegetarian plate, and which tables – beautifully set long communal tables – needed more bread and butter.

My dad spent the day listening to rock & roll in the dish pit and my mom took the reigns on making proper gravy in a kitchen run by vegetarians – she said the trick is to keep whisking and don’t be afraid to make a mess.

When I’m in the kitchen that’s the memory I’m always working to re-create. That well-polished memory, an amalgamation of all the years I experienced that day through the lens of a growing mind, is present in everything I cook as long as I remember how magical it feels to care for one another.


Freezer Jam

The last thing I usually want to do is set up a canning assembly line and fiddle with brand new sealing lids – especially for very small batches of jam.
Truth time: I also dread the surprise of opening a sealed lid, usually of a jar gifted to me at a wedding or holiday, and discovering – shudder – mold. Was there too little sugar added by an austere home cook? Did the sterilization process of the jars and lids go astray?
No matter the reason, the fruit has been wasted, which is exactly the outcome I am trying to avoid when I start simmering a pot of jam.
My solution is Freezer Jam – which just means that I haven’t attempted to sterilize and boiling-water seal my jars of jam to make them shelf stable, instead storing them in the freezer until it’s their moment to be opened and enjoyed. After thawing they will last for several months in the fridge!


Meet The Chef

Salutations! What makes Emily’s Home Cooking unique is… me: Chef-Owner Emily! So who am I? To start at the beginning, I was raised by two Californians who relocated to Vermont in the early 80s to raise their kiddo in the small town of Saxton’s River. Growing up I was used to having a big garden, and a small pen for farm animals. Roast chicken, broiled lamb chops, fresh asparagus, strawberry ice, all from our own backyard!
These are some of my favorite food memories that made me feel connected to the land, and to my parent’s hands that did so much work toward these luxuries: weeding the garden, trips to the feed store, and occasionally the slaughter, butchery, and freezing of whole animals.
This childhood experience shaped my outlook and gave me what I will call my “Vermont touch” – through a California lens. Honesty, creativity, and inclusion with a painterly sensibility.
Another aspect of my experience that makes my cooking approach unique is my technique integration. The backyard-to-table highlights of my food origins gave me the confidence of a homesteader to approach meat and potatoes with the same patience and precision necessary for baking and confectionary.
When you’re in the city you may have corner shops for your favorite delicacies, but when you’re a few hundred miles from a cultural hub and the craving hits you may be inspired to try hard things, and fearless of mistakes.
In my younger days I aspired to be a professional writer, a journalist, a travel photographer, and more – but I ultimately decided that I was already a chef, and that that was enough.


Immune-Boosting Elderberry Syrup

The most popular and accessible way to enjoy the health benefits of elderberries is to brew a deep purple immune-boosting syrup out of just a few ingredients. In late August the sprays of white flowers on backyard bushes will be replaced by clusters of small black berries, and if you can get your hands on some and stick them in the freezer they will keep beautifully until cold season rolls around. If you end up without, never fear: Dried elderberries are widely available and will make beautiful syrup.

Ingredients:

2 cups elderberries (no stems)
1/4 cup water
1 cup honey
3 tablespoons fresh ginger, sliced
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves

Method:
Combine elderberries and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Crush berries with the back of a spoon and allow to simmer for several minutes. Remove from the heat, and drain thoroughly. Discard the berries, saving aside the beautiful purple juice.
Return to your saucepan and add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil before turning down the heat to medium, stirring often as the mixture simmers until thickened. Keep an eye on the bubbles: when the syrup thickens it will quickly become much hotter and the bubbles, which had been popping sedately, will suddenly become huge and fill up the pot. That means it’s time to turn off the heat. Allow your syrup to cool, strain out the sliced ginger, and store refrigerated for up to three months.


Peach Coffee Cake

Peach Coffee Cake

‘Waste not, want not’ is the sentiment upon which all cuisines are built, and all of the most celebrated, soulful food adventures have been based on the ingredients staring back at some cook as they peer into their pantry.

This recipe takes the last bits of some quick-breakfast staples (in this case, whole fat yogurt and fruit canned in juice) that were crowding my refrigerator and uses them to make a simple coffee cake extraordinarily golden on the outside and custardy within.

I created this cake recipe on a whim, and wouldn’t have changed anything about it. Enjoy!

~Peach Coffee Cake Recipe ~

Combine:

1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla

Add:
2 eggs
2/3 cup yogurt (plain, whole fat)

Sift in:
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup flour

Chop & Add:
2/3 cup peaches (canned, with juice)

Pour Batter Into Buttered Loaf Pan

Topping, Combine & Sprinkle Over:
2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup melted coconut oil

Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees

Drizzle: Combine & Brush Top & Bottom
1/4 cup yogurt
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 cup powdered sugar