Friday, December 19, 2014

Gift guide 2014

It is almost Christmas. The semester is over, the weather has chilled and a thin, decorative layer of 3 inches of fresh snow. Most people have their Christmas gifts by now, and the others will run crazy in the malls this weekend. Last night I perused the Williams Sonoma website for anything that I could still buy for the 20% off coupon I received in the email, and debated to get a Cuisinart Electric Pressure cooker for cooking all those chickpeas and kidney beans in 30 minutes flat without soaking them. But accommodating another huge appliance somewhere made me loose the idea. Then I read the Hater’s Guide to the Williams-Sonoma Guide Christmas Edition, and that finally produced an idea: a shitake growing log!

Here are few other ideas of things that are me-approved (meaning, I own and love them, and no one paid me to talk about them).

  • Alpaca inserts

I purchased a pair of alpaca inserts back in the Fall at a Maine fall market from a local vendor who has her own Alpaca herd. Once the weather became older and the winter boots came out, I inserted the pair, and could not get over myself of how soft, comfortable, warm and overall cozy I felt all day like my feet were wrapped in their own down blanket. I was looking for another pair for another pair of boots, but all my investigating on typical online outlets (Amazon) showed that they are not really mainstream, and you only get them on Etsy. I ordered another pair at this etsy seller and highly recommend them. Great communication, really good prices ($8.50/insert) and fast shipping. If you want to make any man, woman, or child happy, get them some Alpaca inserts.


  • Timberland booties

Winter time is not a time of pretty footwear, at least not in snow-rich longitudes such as Maine. Practicality comes before beauty, and boots are often clobbery and manly. Not these! They are Timberland women’s winter boots, and they could not look more feminine while still having all the sturdiness, warmth, snow and ice repellant and safe on ice nature of real winter boots. The Timberland Earthkeeper Glancy go well with skinny jeans, boyfriends jeans and even tights and skirts. They make winter boots look petite and are still practical.


  • Stonewall kitchen caramel sea salt sauce

Whenever I end up in Camden, I make my way into the Stonewall Kitchen Store. There is a reliable spread of samples and, like on good days in WholeFoods, you can eat your way through the store. Last time I tried something that made me immediately grab a jar --- the Sea Salt Caramel Sauce. This is the perfect combination of buttery, sugary, caramelized heaven with a hunch of salt. Drizzle this over a piece of fudgy chocolate cake or a chocolate cookies will make you remember your most profound sensual experiences of your life.


So, that’s is for my last gift recommendations for this holiday season. There is always the Dude’s guide for guy gifting and the gift guide for women.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Za’atar spiced roasted beets, Brussels sprouts and French string beans

The other day 2 cookbooks arrived. Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem and Plenty More. I already have Plenty and the original Ottolenghi cookbook that for a long time was only available in the UK. The middle eastern influenced, often vegetarian kitchen is full of wonderful, flavorful combination, with a unique style that always just hits the spot. Without even looking inside, I had an idea for dinner: Za’ater spiced roasted beets with french beans and brussels sprouts with a slice of feta cheese.

I had a pound of beets before, and roasted them with a mix of vegetable broth, balsamic vinegar, a bay leaf, and some salt. I frozen them, and they are great to add to any dish.

Za’atar spiced beets, French beans and Brussels sprouts (1 serving)
  • 1/2 cup of roasted, cubed balsamic beets
  • handful of frozen French beans
  • cup of frozen brussels sprouts
  • 1/3 cup organic raw apple cider (of fresh pressed juice)
  • 1 teaspoon za’atar
  • salt to taste
  • optional: feta cheese
Heat a non-stick pan, and place the frozen vegetables in the pan, right out of the freezer. Add the apple cider, and sprinkle with za’tar. Close with a lid so that the steam does not escape while cooking and reheating them in the apple cider. Saute on medium heat, until the apple cider is mostly evaporated (ca. 10 minutes). Season with salt to taste, and add a slice of feta cheese. Season with za’atar.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Gluehwein–”Blazing wine”

In Europe, especially in the colder, northern parts it is a tradition to have stands with mulled wine everywhere outside, at winter markets, Christmas markets, ice rinks, skiing huts, or just along the street when holidays shopping. It is not just mulled wine, but literally (translated) called ‘blazing with heat wine’, because spices are added, citrus and something much higher proof, rum or brandy. In places affected by the polar vortex, this is a drink that definitely keeps everyone warm and in holiday spirit.


First, there is a large pot, and a bottle of decent red wine (a cabernet would be good, or a red blend like Menage a trois, basically your favorite red wine, don’t use cheap wine). Cut up 1-2 oranges depending on if you use 1 or 2 bottles of red wine.


Next step is 1-2 TB of mulling spices. There is a great mix from Trader Joes, or you can make it yourself (ca. 7 whole cloves, a stick of cinnamon, a whole star anise, dried orange rind, and maybe some juniper berries if you have them, but optional, cloves and cinnamon are a must). So, a whole bottle of wine, an orange cut into slices, the mulling spices, and now heat up slowly (should get hot, not boil). Now, add 3-4 TB of sugar and stir until dissolved.


Add about 1/8 of a cup of spiced, dark rum or brandy before serving (hot! in a mug).

Now, you can feel like being at a European Christkindle’s market.


Friday, December 5, 2014

Christmas by the Sea

It was my well-earned day off and I headed out of town. We are between snowstorms (the last one is mostly melted away), and the Christmas decorations are up. IT was the usual route to Belfast, Cellardoor Winery, and then Camden. It was a good day to go since Camden celebrated “Christmas by the sea” and the small businesses gave 15% off storewide and then there was a Christmas parade. Camden with the Christmas d├ęcor looks like Christmas in the good old days: local, festive, intimate.

Cellardoor Winery, still open until Christmas, and then closed until April.