Hot Pockets

A few years ago a good friend of mine came across one of the devices you see below (the one on the bottom to be exact) in an antique store. It was called a Toas-tite, and it could be used to make delicious sandwich pockets over an open flame. At the time, we both lived in the city and didn’t have regular access to a campfire or grill, so we did what New Yorker’s do, and we improvised by heating the device over a gas stove. We typically made delicious grilled cheese sandwiches and it was good fun. We won’t get into the details of how this went down, but when my friend moved out of NY, I took possession of the beloved sandwich press.

Campfire Sandwich Press by

Campfire Sandwich Press by

In the last few years I’ve acquired quite a few of these presses, also called pie irons and pudgy pies. They couldn’t be simpler to use: Just coat two pieces of bread lightly with butter and place them inside the iron butter-side-down. Fill with the ingredients of your choice, close the press and cut or tear the excess bread from the sides. Then hold over a flame for 7 to 10 minutes or until toasted. It’s a great way to make a delicious and quick dinner, even in the dark (see below).

Campfire Sandwich Press Creation by

Campfire Sandwich Press Creation by

These days, I’m able to use my presses over a fire pit at the farm, probably a bit safer, and definitely a lot more fun that in a tiny NYC kitchen. I typically go with a traditional and simple grilled cheese (always with a slice or two of tomato) but have plans to stuff some with bbq pulled pork and cole slaw or goat cheese with arugula and grapes in the future. What would you put inside your sandwich press?

SWWU Tip 1: Make sure the bread you use is larger than the press. If it falls short, you won’t get a good seal on your sandwich.

SWWU Tip 2: If you’re lucky you can spot vintage sandwich presses at garage sales, antique stores and on websites like Etsy and eBay

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The Perfect Pancake Breakfast

It’s been a long week and Brian and I can’t wait to get out of the city and up to the farm tonight. We’re looking forward to checking in on the trees we planted, exploring the Catskills and hanging out with some friends who will also be in the area. Of course, we’ll probably whip up one of our favorite breakfasts one or both mornings that we’ll be up there. Here’s a peek at a typical way to start the day at the farm:

The Perfect Pancake Breakfast by

The Perfect Pancake Breakfast by

What could be better than a pancake and bacon breakfast on the porch? Not much, I promise, not much.

We’ve perfected our pancake-making skills over the years and have come up with a few tips to getting everything just right every time. Here’s what helps makes this meal #1 for us:

  1. MIX IT UP: Ya, ya I know. Pancakes made from scratch are great. But you know what? Some of the ones that come from boxes taste pretty darn good too. And when I’m in a farmhouse that isn’t as always well stocked as my own home and the closest store is a trek, you can’t beat a pre-made pancake mix. Our favorites are New Hope Mills Buttermilk Pancake Mix and Kodiak Cakes Whole Wheat, Oat and Honey Flapjacks.
  2. ADD YOUR OWN SPIN: Intensify the flavor of your pancakes by adding a teaspoon of vanilla extract (check out our easy homemade version here) and a tablespoon or more of maple syrup to the batter. Occasionally I like to throw in a dash or two or ground cinnamon or ground ginger as well.
  3. USE SOMETHING UNEXPECTED: Our go-tos are pieces of cooked bacon, diced apple and chocolate chips. Sometimes we even use a combination of them all! Fresh fruit, shredded sharp cheese—the possibilities are endless.
  4. SERVE A SAVORY SIDE: Balance the sweet flavor of the pancakes with some sausage or bacon strips. We’re big fans of the options available at Hull-O Farms.
  5. TURN UP THE HEAT: Serving a bit of warmed syrup on the side makes this breakfast feel extra indulgent.

I know what we’ll be doing this weekend! Perhaps you should too. After all, I bet that special guy in your life (hi dad, sorry I won’t be celebrating with you in person this year) deserves a lovely breakfast in bed (or on the porch) this Sunday.

SWWU Tip: Pancakes with toppings cooked into them often result in a sunken-hole look. Avoid this by putting a bit of batter on top of each pancake after you’ve sprinkled on your topping of choice and before you’ve flipped it over. The pancakes in the photo above have apple and bacon pieces cooked into them, but they still look picture-perfect!

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Water Works

The trees we planted at the farm have been enjoying their new home for about four weeks now. They all seem to be sporting some new growth, showing off some leaves and generally doing pretty well. Here’s how they looked last month (tree planting), and here’s one of them now:

Ure Pear Tree - One Month In (

Ure Pear Tree – One Month In (

Not bad, right? Since we don’t make it up to the farm every weekend, we knew we needed a watering solution to keep the ground around the new plantings moist. After some extensive research, Brian came across Ooze Tubes on the Arbor Day Foundation website. The long plastic tubes can be filled with up to 15 gallons of water each. An adjustable dip gauge allows you to control the flow of water that comes out, allowing each one to last up to four weeks.

The tubes are pretty easy to install, but very fragile. We accidentally punctured a hole in one of them, but the remaining four are currently in place and hopefully working well. I guess we’ll find out in a few weeks when we make it back up to check on them!

Ooze Tube around a one-month-old Jenner Sweet apple tree (

Ooze Tube around a young Jenner Sweet apple tree (

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Branching Out

Brian’s family farmhouse is a wonderful refuge from the busy city. Located about 150 miles northwest of NYC, this retreat in the Catskills has already been the site for many wonderful memories for us. Trips to the farm always revolve around good people, great food and fun (well, mostly fun) projects.

The farm at dawn by

The farm at sunrise by

The property has acres and acres of trees, including a crab apple and pear tree near the house. Unfortunately, none of them produce anything you would want to eat. Brian and I decided to change this, and early this year he began doing some research on what types of trees might be able to survive in the harsh climate. He came across St. Lawrence Nurseries, a place that specializes in tress and plants for northern climates. We decided we had nothing to lose by trying and purchased five trees: four apple (Jenner Sweet, Golden Russet, Honeycrisp and Red Baron) and one pear (Ure). We placed the order in March and the trees were sent to us when it would be an appropriate time to plant them. With any luck we could have fruit in just three to five years. Fingers crossed! Take a look at the slideshow below to see how it all came together.

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