Thursday, November 30, 2006

Good Morning

Fryeburg, ME
(I think they're talking about me).

I Brake For Moose

The Boston Globe reports that your tax dollars funded a study of moose/motor vehicle accidents in Maine (study by the CDC, so it had to be your tax dollars, dear reader in Florida or Ohio).

So why do I brake for Meese? Because they are dangerous. And wicked big ( 7 feet tall and about 1,600 lbs.). Moose were involved in only 15% of the accidents in Maine but accounted for 50% of the injuries and 14 of 17 of the fatalities. So overall, it just seems better to avoid them.

Maine has 29,000 moose. Alaska has more. But ours are better.

More Stocking Stuffer Christmas Gifts

In between work, house cleaning and Christmas tree buying, we've been Christmas shopping on-line and browsing the small shops of are a few of the things we bought today for stocking stuffers, Secret Santa exchanges and a Yankee Swap:

Aerolatte: simply a must have for anyone who likes hot chocolate, hot milk, latte or is too tired to stir the kool aid. It's available online, at Target stores, Restoration Hardware, and

Blueberry Breakfast Grab and Go
: Down at the Stonewall Kitchen Store, we found this little package of Blueberry Pancake mix, Blueberry Syrup and a blue silicon spatula. If you can't get to the store, it's available on-line. But if you can get to the store, try to have lunch or dinner. The cafe has delicious soups and sandwiches.

Bergamot Tobacco Soy Candle: 5.25 oz of outstandingly gorgeous smells. The candle lasts forever and the house smells clean and fresh and lovely.

Gratuitous Ohio State Football Post

In which we detour (just for a moment) from life in Maine to other considerations--

It's amazing that I could post for four consecutive days before mentioning my beloved Ohio State Buckeye football team, but I couldn't quite reconcile the Bucks with a blog about Maine and cooking and books and whatnot. Any connection seemed contrived at best and just flat wrong at worst.

Now, thanks to the New England Patriots football team, I can mention the #1 college football team in the country. I won't mention their Heisman Trophy Candidate Troy Smith or their undefeated record or how they beat Michigan in the game, but since so many Mainiacs are rabid Patriots fans, I think this is fair game: Tom Brady (University of Michigan) lost his OSU-Michigan bet with Mike Vrabel (The Ohio State University) and had to wear an OSU jersey during Patriots' practice. (Now if I can only find a reason to talk about the basketball team.....)

Gosh, he looks so cute in scarlet, doesn't he?
Go Bucks!

Clam Chowder Recipe

In Maine, lobster and clams go together like beer and buffalo wings or Oreos and milk.
It's hard for us to have one without the other. In the summer, we love a mess of steamers (steamed clams) followed by a nice boiled lobster (we can have the steamed vs. boiled debate later).

We've had lobster on the brain all this week (tomorrow being Trap Day ), but we don't have a hankering for an actual lobster tonight. Then there's the fact that we're stuck in a soup rut and the only logical conclusion is that it's a great night for Clam Chowder.

We'll serve it with a Sour Dough Bread (Flying Pig being a wonderful local bakery), a salad and the lovely Red Truck wine.

The recipe I'm making tonight is from one of my new favorite cookbooks Recipes From a Very Small Island, written by Linda and Martha Greenlaw.

Being from away, I initially shied away from making clam chowder at home--the thought of shucking a clam intimidated me. It's very easy and if you follow the method in the first paragraph of the recipe, it's extremely easy.

Lastly the question of whether a thick chowder is better than a milky chowder is another debate that happens between Mainahs, but we like both kinds.

Tonight, we're opting for thinner, and this recipe is divine.

Barter Creek Clam Chowder

1.5 lbs soft-shelled clams, well cleaned (scrubbed and rinsed off)
3 strips bacon, coursely chopped
1 large sweet onion (Vidalia if available)
4 medium sized potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cups milk
12 oz can evaporated milk
1 stick unsalted butter
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Steam the clams in half a cup of water until they begin to open (5-8 minutes). Shuck the clams, discard the neck skin (the icky black stuff on the neck--it will just peel off) and if necessary, cut the clams into smaller pieces.

In a large stock pot, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp (about 10 minutes). Remove bacon with slotted spoon, leaving fat in the bottom of the pot. Add the onion and cook over medium heat until the onion begins to soften (about 5 minutes). Add the potatoes and enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until the potatoes are tender (about 15 minutes).

Add the milk, evaporated milk, butter and clams with any juices that you've reserved. Simmer over low heat until the butter melts and the clams are fully cooked (about 5 minutes). Add the bacon and parsley and season with the salt and pepper.

You can serve it immediately or cool and refrigerate overnight. If you are going to reheat, slow warming on the stove top works much better than the microwave.

Tomorrow Is Trap Day

And that means LOBSTER (and an explanation of what trap day actually is)

Good Morning

York Beach, ME

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Two Days Until Trap Day

Port Clyde, ME

The General Store

Blog Buddy, Marie, has a great photo of the Mast General Store down in Boone County, NC.
It reminds us of Ira Miller's General Store over in Milton Mills, NH and both are the kind of general stores that we'd like to own (Ira Miller's was for sale back in August, and boy did that give us something to consider).

But in the end we decided that the location wasn't right. We'd like ours in a small town in northern Maine. It would be in the town center. It would have to have a pot bellied stove, a huge pickle jar filled with huge pickles and we'd make fresh popcorn most days. We'd have the best penny candy (it would cost a nickle though). Our store would have wide pine floorboards and a small porch out front with a bench or maybe a even a porch swing for those warm summer days. In the winter, we'd be open even in the worst of snow storms (getting there wouldn't be a problem because we'd live in the cozy apartment on the second floor) and we'd have dark, rich great tasting coffee. Steaming hot in winter, iced in the summer.

We'd sell local cheeses and local vegetables (in season); we might even sell some local organically raised lamb. We'd carry beautiful hand spun alpaca yarn, made by the slightly daft woman who lived just outside of town.

We'd have a lunch counter and would serve a good, hearty breakfast and the best sandwiches in town. We'd have the best pizza for 20 miles, but no delivery. Mostly because our only car would look like this one but also because we don't do delivery.

I'd be there most days from very early until very late, but I wouldn't mind because everyone in town would stop in for one thing or another and to share the news. No one in town would ever forget that we're from away, but eventually they'd stop reminding us every day. I would be working on The Great American Novel. I'd be writing it for years.....I'd still be writing it when I died and my children would read it and think "what drivel." But they'd admire my intestinal fortitude for sticking with it.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Good Morning

Isle au Haut

You Tube of the Week

Island Life in Maine

Flu Weather (and a cure for it--the flu not the weather)

It's gray and 38 here today, with a light mist and general dampness in the air. The sky is gray, the water is gray, our mood is trying to turn to gray, but we're gamely avoiding that.
Tomorrow it will be back in the 60's, Thursday in the 40's, Friday in the 50's and Saturday in the low 40's. Flu weather. "An ounce of prevention" being what it is, it seems the time to make a batch of chicken soup. This is rich in vitamins and whatever other magic is found in chicken soup, but on top of that, it tastes wonderful even when you're not sick.

Chicken Soup

1 whole fryer chicken-organic or even better kosher if you can find it (those are a bit hard to come by in Maine)
2 large parsnips
2 small onions
4 large carrots
2 large turnips (when you can't find turnips, rutabegas work well)
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon ginger
half pound wide egg noodles
2 Tbs fresh dill
2 Tbs fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Place the chicken in a pot, cover with cold water
Chop 1 onion, 1 parsnip, 1 turnip, 2 carrots and add to the pot
Do not peel the root vegetables (just make sure they're well washed)
Add the garlic, ginger, salt and pepper
Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, cooking for at least two hours
Skim fat as necessary
Remove the vegetables and discard
Remove the chicken and debone, then strain the stock and season with salt and pepper to taste
Chop parsnip, turnip, onion and carrots into small chunks and add to the simmering stock
Add the chicken and egg noodles
Cook until noodles and veggies are tender, then add the parsley and dill just before serving.

My husband doesn't love the dill, so I usually use half what's called for.

Three Days Until Trap Day

Monhegan Island, Maine

Nubble "Light"

Saturday night was the annual (actually bi-annual*) lighting of the Nubble Light for Christmas. About 1,000 folks welcomed Santa and sang Christmas Carols. York has been decorating and lighting the Nubble for decades, a tradition that helps to ensure that the Nubble remains Maine's most photographed lighthouse.

We have a love/hate relationship with the Nubble. We love it because it's ours and it's beautiful. We hate it because it's everywhere--one the wall in our friend's lakeside house in Sandusky, OH; on the wall in the office where our daughter works in Philadelphia; on the advertising flyer we received in the mail from Big American Bank; on the cover of our favorite book about Maine The Lobster Coast.

(*We love our tourists and we understand that our tourists don't love the Maine Coast in December, so we light it up in July. The touristas take their Christmas card pictures and then wander over to Brown's Ice Cream for a cone).

Sock Monkey Slippers--You Have To Know Someone Who Would Just Love Them

I intentionally missed the Black Friday sport shopping and then unintentionally missed CyberMonday. We have lots of people to buy "little" gifts for and time is fleeting, so today it's Cyberpower Shopping Tuesday....

Best (little) finds so far:
Sock Monkey Slippers
Legendary German Christmas Pickle
Stonewall Kitchen Lavendar Mint Liquid Handsoap
Stonewall Kitchen Lavendar Laundry Sachet
Ohio State Buckeye Coffee

You've Got to Have a Lot of Disposable Income Finds:
$99.00 to warm a coffee mug
Shure Earphones for your iPod. Shure cost a lot. Shure sounds good. (and yes, I shure do want a pair in my stocking) and you get this T-Shirt with them.
Heart-Shaped Doggie Bed

Site of the Day

Daniela makes wonderful glass beads.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Good Morning

New Harbor, Maine.

Four Days Until Trap Day

Photo National Geographic
And that means lobster.

Easy Vegetable Beef Soup

Today, I'm using the left over beef from the roast to make a quick and easy beef vegetable soup. I've yet to meet a kid that doesn't love this soup and that includes my husband (who still doesn't like to eat his veggies).
I generally don't work from a recipe and I always use whatever fresh or frozen veggies that I have on hand at the time so it never tastes exactly the same. I did carefully measure before posting this but you should feel free to add or take away to suit your tastes. It will still be scrumptious.

If you don't have a lot of time, this can be made in about 35 minutes (just allow enough time for the potatoes to cook thoroughly) but if you can let it simmer for 2-3 hours, the flavor gets better and better. I put the extra soup in individual sized containers and freeze it. It's just as good (maybe better) warmed up.

Beef Veggie Soup
Left over beef roast, shredded into bite sized pieces
1.5 large cans of tomato or V-8 juice (my mom uses V-8 for the extra vitamins, I prefer tomato juice)
3 potatoes cut into bite size pieces
8 oz frozen corn
8 oz frozen lima beans or frozen peas
8 oz frozen cut green beans
6 oz frozen cut carrots
salt to taste (the potatoes will absorb a bit of salt, so you'll most likely need more than you think)
pepper to taste
16 oz Beef stock or to taste ( you can omit the beef stock, but I like it because it thins the tomato just a bit)

Pour tomato juice and beef stock into stock pot or large sauce pan and add the potatoes. Simmer until potatoes just start to become soft. Add the beef, the veggies and salt and pepper and continue to simmer....

Tonight I'm pairing the soup with a blt tossed salad. I also serve it with hot bavarian ham and cheese sandwiches or tuna melts.

Space Food Sticks

When I was a kid, I hated breakfast. Because my parents were responsible parents (and we lived in a small enough town that everybody knew everybody's business and good families fed the kids before sending them to school), not eating a healthy breakfast before school wasn't an option.

Eggs turned my stomach. Pancakes, waffles and french toast were all too sweet. There wasn't a breakfast cereal that tasted good. Mornings were a battle of wills and it was ugly (we can talk about my choice of attire on another day).

The compromise was half a Carl Buddig Beef sandwich on whole wheat bread (my mom ditched the Wonder Bread the SECOND that there was an alternative) with a dash of mustard. I would eat it and it was reasonably healthy (it had to be better than the bowls of Count Chocula that my sister powered down, right?).

Then came Space Food Sticks. I loved the chocolate flavor. I believed that the astronauts ate them. Heck, I believed that the astronauts survived on them. I didn't care that it was a stick of man-made chemicals (possibly petroleum by-products). The commercial said that the astronauts ate them and my mother hated them. Good enough for me.

Now Mr. Toast reports that they're back. Funny, but I'm not even tempted....

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Beauty. Serenity

I discovered this blog through the blog "shuffle"--(aka the next blog link on blogger). I don't read a stitch of Portuguese and the site has nothing to do with Mainelife, but the beauty of the photos mesmerized me. I think it's a wonderful site to pass the time during a long, dark Maine winter.
Site of the day

More Apples Than You Know What to Do With?

About this time of year, we've eaten our fill of apples (we live in the apple pickin' capital of the country, it seems) and we're looking for ways to not let them go to waste.

Even if you need to buy apples to make these two desserts, I think you'll find it well worth it.

I'm a horrible pie baker, but a pie eater extraordinaire. Translation: my pie crusts suck (not a term I use lightly but absolutely appropriate here) but I won't eat a bad pie crust. What to do? Find a recipe where the filling is so scrumptious that a frozen crust won't be noticed by even the pickiest of pie eaters. Found it over at Simply Recipes. I've made it at least 10 times in the last month. I've messed with the recipe but I think it's best just as is.

It's so good that my own mother refused to believe that I made it until I made it while she watched. Thank you, Elise.

Sour Cream Apple Pie

1 cup sour cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
3 cups peeled, sliced tart apples (about 1 1/4 pounds of slices)
1 9" unbaked pie shell, frozen or chilled in the freezer for at least 30 minutes (see pâte brisée recipe)

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Mix together all ingredients until the mixture resembes coarse crumbs.

1 Preheat oven to 400°F.

2 Beat together sour cream, sugar, flour, salt, vanilla and egg (can beat by hand). Add apples, mixing carefully to coat well.

3 Put filling into a pie shell and bake at 400 degrees initially for 25 min.

4 Remove from oven and sprinkle with Cinnamon Crumb Topping. Bake for and additional 20 more minutes.

Let cool for a hour before serving. Serves 8

As bad as my pie baking is, my cake baking is pretty good. It will hold its own in all but the nastiest of competitions (like the Ohio State Fair--not that I've entered, but I've eaten there).
This recipe holds up in any arena.
Mom's Apple Cake

1 2/4 cup sugar 1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup oil 1 tsp salt
3 eggs 1 TBS vanilla
2 cups flour 1 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp baking soda 2 or more cups sliced apples

Beat sugar oil and eggs together until thoroughly mixed. Add the dry ingredients and then fold in the vanilla. Add the apples and nuts. Pour into a greased and flour 9 X 13 pan. Bake at 375 for 45 to 60 minutes. If you use a glass pyrex pan, bake for 350 degrees for 45 minutes.


News We Don't Like to Hear

According to the Associated Press, the average daily temperature on top of Mt. Washington (notoriously bad weather) is 7.5 degrees higher than normal.
Mt. Washington broke records for daily highs on November 12,16, and 17.

This from a place that usually has snow in August....

Easy New England Pot Roast

We woke up this morning to a hard frost, clear blue skies and temperatures in the 20's. It's a day that calls for our first pot roast of the winter.

When I make a pot roast, I get a roast large enough that we'll have leftover beef. I can then make homemade veggie soup or if there's enough beef left, Amish beef and noodles. But first to the pot roast. I'm for easy so long as it doesn't mean sacrificing taste, so baby carrots and canned green beans are part of the ingredients

I start with a good cut roast--chuck or tender chuck. It's a little more expensive then a traditional pot roast, but if your cooking time needs to be shortened, the better cut means it will still be tender. We always cook the roast in a 6 quart slow cooker.

3-4 pound top round roast
4-5 potatoes, peeled and cut into eighths
1 large onion, peeled and cut into quarters
2 or 3 cloves garlic (optional and to taste--I use three)
2 cups beef broth
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 lb baby carrots
1 can french cut green beans

For easy clean up, spray the crock with Mazola Olive Oil Spray (a healthier alternative to some of the other sprays). Place the pot roast in the pan fat side down, add the beef broth, wine, and garlic. Arrange the onion pieces around the roast and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Cook on high for an hour. Add the potato pieces and take this opportunity to spoon the liquid over the beef and potatoes.

Continue cooking on high for two hours. Add the carrots and turn cooker to low. Cook for another two hours or until ready to serve. Add the green beans one half hour before serving.

Some recipes call for onion soup or Worchesterchire Sauce. While this adds more flavor, when I'm planning to reuse the beef, we let the garlic and onion add the flavor. With a good cut of meat, it's just right.

For a workday pot roast, I follow this recipe, but I turn the slow cooker on low, add the potatoes and carrots before I leave for work and let the concoction cook all day. The first person home adds the green beans, as they only need about half an hour.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


We found these three birdhouses at Brenda's Bloomers and thought they were a perfect addition to our garden shed. Brenda mostly does flowers, but she does birdhouses quite well, we think. She's in York, north of the Original Flo's Hot Dogs.

Cheesy Artichoke Spinach Dip

We love warm artichoke spinach dip served with tortilla chips, but could never find a recipe that tasted as good as the dips we'd order as an appitizer at restaurants (or even those we'd find at the local sports bar).
Finally, here's one that meets our finicky persnickity taste test. We don't recommend using low fat mayo or anything other than high test Philly Cream Cheese, but that's just us.

14 oz can of artichoke hearts, chopped
1/2 cup Frozen Chopped Spinach (Thawed and drained of water)
8 oz Philadelphia Cream Cheese (softened)
1/2 cup mayo
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
Dash of salt
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
Pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together and warm in microwave until bubbly and melted. Place in warming dish or small crockpot. Serve with tortilla chips.

Great for brunch.

No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Looking for a great Christmas Cookie recipe to bake with the kids? These no bake chocolate oatmeal cookies are a family favorite. Easy to make and yummy to eat, they’re a good addition to any Christmas Cookie platter.

No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

2 c. sugar
1/2 c. milk
Pinch salt
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. cocoa
1/2 stick butter
3 c. oats
1 tsp. vanilla

Boil sugar, cocoa, milk, butter and salt for 1 minute in a non-stick pan. Remove from heat and add peanut butter and oats and vanilla. Use a tablespoon to place dough out on waxed paper, and let chill until the dough sets. Store in a tin between layers of waxed paper.

Yummy Brunch Sandwiches

My sister served these tiny sandwiches for dinner the other night, but no one was deterred by the fact that she served brunch sandwiches after 5 pm. NOTE: After initial prep, the sandwiches need to be refrigerated for at least four hours (longer if necessary) before baking.

12 King’s Hawaiian Dinner Rolls 1 TBS Worchestershire Sauce

1/2 pound deli ham, sliced thin 1 TBS Mustard

1/2 pound Swiss Cheese, sliced 1 TBS Poppy Seeds

1/2 cup butter 2 TBS Brown Sugar

Split rolls. Cut ham and cheese into pieces so that it fits in the rolls. Divide ham and cheese and place on rolls. Arrange filled rolls in a 9 x 13 baking dish. Combine remaining ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Mix well and pour over rolls. Refrigerate four hours. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until cheese melts and rolls are crusty. These can be served warm or at room temperature. Great as left overs, too.