Saturday, July 30, 2011

Short brush with disaster

The last few days had a little bit of excitement. First, my laptop decided to not start up anymore but get stuck at the first screen. Google-diagnosis says the motherboard might be ‘fused’. Fortunately it is still under warranty. Then, Chanelle went under to get his first teeth cleaning and I am always a bit worried when my cats get anesthesia. Fortunately, no extractions just dirty teeth. The vegan blueberry muffins I baked turned out a bit soaky. And some other ‘fun’ I don’t want to mention here. Let’s just say, when it rains it pours. 

Anyways. Ever since I made the vegan pesto, which tastes great and has a fraction of the calories of regular pesto I’ve been a bit on a pesto bender and pile it not just on pasta, but sauted vegetables and toasted bread. Yesterday I tried a new pesto recipe --- a mix of Giada’s Avocado Arugula pesto and my vegan pesto. I think it is my favorite yet. The arugula adds a nice ‘bite’ (as in sharpness).
  • 1 densely packed cup of arugula
  • 1/2 cup of fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 avocado, peeled, pitted
  • 1 TB mellow low-sodium yellow miso
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3 TB pine nuts
  • 1 inch slice of sheep’s milk feta
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/8-1/4 cup water (as needed to achieve desired consistency)
Place all ingredients in a food processor, grate the garlic onto the ingredients (to make sure there are no larger pieces) and puree all ingredients until smooth. Add water as needed. With the lemon juice, the pesto stores well in the fridge, and does not turn brown.
pesto ingredients vegan pesto

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cookbook Razzle Dazzle

Most of the time I cook dishes that are relatively simple and I remember all the ingredients. However, there are also a few times when I need the instructions like for baking muffins or not being sure I remember all the ingredients. Since I am likely in the kitchen already it’s good if I find the recipe in my recipe binder. However, if it is not printed out yet I have to go to my office, restart the computer, write things up….. and that is just a hassle. UNTIL I realized I can use my IPAD as the perfect ‘cookbook”, with pictures and all and always up to date. Do you ipad-cookbook?


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Maine wild blueberry times

The hike in Acadia last week and the farmers market today confirm it: the wild Maine blueberries are ripe! Plucking the blueberries along my hike seriously slowed me down, so I was ready to hand over $8 at the farmers market for a large container today. Good times!
maine_blueberries DSC_4007

Monday, July 25, 2011

Ratatouille with Pesto

I am seriously in love with this pesto. Yesterday, I ransacked my few basil plants and the mache bed to make another batch. This time I added the juice of a 1/2 lemon; it adds to the taste and the pesto does not get brown. I also added some Trader Joes’ sheep milk feta – not much but it also makes the pesto rich in flavor. Today for lunch I cooked up a batch of ratatouille, well, a very basic version with summer squash, haricot vert and garlic scapes and a few chickpeas and added a heap of pesto. Great!

ratatouille with vegan pesto

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Horsing around.

I want a bike like this.


A day on the coast

The day started with this.


A pink mini donut at Starbucks and an iced Americano to wipe away the last sleepy cowebs in my head. I headed out of town with no clear plan of what do to. Something coastal/South. I had been to Acadia National Park quite a few times already, Portland was too long of a drive, so something else. Once I left town I knew where to head: Camden

On the way on Highway 1 South, a few picturesque outdoor flea markets line the roadside. 


Naturally, a Maine flea market along a busy coastal highway must have Maine-ish things for the tourista. Like stuffed deer, or black bears or a cute moose. Or lobster buoys and cages. Seeing a moose close up like this typically happens only at a fleamarkt. Bears, too. If you are lucky. Because otherwise, they land on your windshield. Or eat your cats for snacks.

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Lots of very old books (like law books from 1830) or antique cameras or vinyl records. Rather than enticing me to buy anything a flea market  just reminds be of the passing of time. And sometimes we just want a trinket of times long gone. As if we can hold on to it. 


Highway No 1 finally took me to Camden, the scenic (and very touristy) coastal town with a harbor full of windjammers, which offer 1/2 day tours, all kind of beautiful private sailboats, and the occasional super-yacht. Good food, nice views, and somehow just too much traffic. 

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Back to normal

What a relief. After 3 days of sweltering heat, the hunt for an AC, the lack of sleep because the AC is roaring rather than purring, the temperatures have finally dropped to something anyone can live with – without AC. A nice windy breeze, the first night of full sleep and it is still the weekend. I am not sure how people in the South do it. Anything outdoors must be done before 7 or 8am and then it is a hop hop hop from air-conditioned house to car to coffeeshop to work with a few warm-ups in between which must feel pleasant.

My lunch plate was easy – thanks to the ‘whole foods salad bar’ in my fridge. Mixed greens from the FM, black garbanzo beans, cherry tomatoes, curried hummus and yellow cucumber salad topped with balsamic vinaigrette and a few blue cheese crumbles.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Yellow cucumber for cool summer food

They tried to make me go to rehab, and I said “No, no, no.” This song is stuck in my head, ever since I heard that Amy Winehouse was found dead this morning. I’ve always liked this song, an expression of Amy’s talent, voice, ebullience and her very own style. Now, remembering this song takes on a sad note: how true it became in the end. "Rest in peace" will probably never take on a truer meaning. 

Before I heard of the sad news I was surprised this morning that we had had some rain overnight, unexpected and unpredicted and so necessary. It had not rained in almost 4 weeks. It was overcast, much cooler, and I headed off the farmers market.  Single-mindedly I bought yellow zucchini (10 for $3) and a large bag of mixed greens with some edible flowers in them. Then I found yellow cucumbers. Yellow cucumbers? They remind be of summer squash and melons, so I had to try them.

The first dish I made was a yellow cucumber salad with Sicilian Lemon White Balsamic vinegar, salt and dill. Chilled! The second dish is a yellow cucumber tzatzki, the Greek summer dish, with Greek yogurt, grate cucumber, dill, salt, pepper and garlic. 

The summer heat is back, but cooling food is waiting. Eating, still humming, they tried to make me go to rehab and ……

yellow cucumber aalad

Friday, July 22, 2011

What heat wave?

We are wimps when it comes to heat and humidity. Especially after last summer’s record heat stretch we are all wimped out this summer. With two days of record temperatures predicted, we flash back to last summer’s sleepless, sweat-soaked, miserable week late August, and decide: enough is enough, I need an AC unit ASAP, even if I am a Mainer, and we don’t usually do such things. 

I went on my mission early in the morning, and I was too late. Everyone else must have been thinking the same thing (“Get AC and buy cheap books at liquidated Borders”), and but they had done their shopping before me: AC units sold out everywhere. Sears, Walmart, some guy at Best Buy snagged up the last portable unit before me, and all the sales people saying “We are sold out! ….. no, for the season, no more deliveries this year”. 

I already saw myself camping out in the basement with the air mattress for the next 2 nights when I check at the last resort: the local Dunnett’s. They did not get the “Best of the Best in appliances and service” for 2010 award in vain --- they still had a few units left, and the line before me was just long enough to get me the last 12,000BTU unit. Lucky me. 

Now, after some heavy lifting, it is purring away in my bedroom, cats and I are back to normal, and say, what heat wave?


Heat Wave….

The current national heat wave has hit Maine. 2 days ahead with temperatures over 100 degrees and quite some humidity. This probably looks like nothing out of the ordinary to people in Florida and Texas, but then every house has AC. Not so in Maine. Most houses in Maine rely on the good old days when people from NY and Boston flocked to Bar Harbor for the summer, because they could not stand the pre-AC temperatures of southern New England. Ok. so this was about 100 years ago, when New York, Boston and Bar Harbor was said in one breath, but still today most houses in Maine don’t have central AC but rely on ceiling fans and people are suffering through the few dog days of summer, or submerging themselves at the lake of their camps. 

When the scorcher days arrive, and thanks to global warming, there are more and more of those (and we dream of them in the deep freeze of winter), now we actually get quite sentimental about a few feet of snow. That would be nice. Just anything to cool us down.

Thunderstorms had been promised for a few days but nothing happened. I wipe down the cats with ice cubes, and they are cooperative. They try to find any cool surface to lay on. Any personal fury affection is suspended for the time being. We all are on our backs, limps in the air. We are thinking about moving into the unfinished basement, the only cool place in the house. 

It also brings back alarming memories of last August’s unrelenting heat wave, and I know there is only one thing to do today: go to Best Buy and get a AC window unit. 

BH vintage

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Maine moment…

…. or how vegans eat lobsters once in a while. At least, it falls under clean and local eating. Although lobsters is something common and inexpensive to eat in Maine, it still provides me a sense of a special treat, of luxury. Add to it eating it at a road side lobster house in the warm evening sun after a long hot summer day.. you have a real Maine moment. 

lobster  lobster house

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Israeli Couscous Tabouli

Tabouli is this wonderful Middle Eastern dish made with plenty of parsley and mint, cracked wheat and lemon, and some tomatoes. It is cooling in the summer, and a great side to anything grilled or antipasto.

I missed the show on Foodtv, but I still was enthralled by the interesting twist Melissa D’Arabian added to the classic tabouli: make it Israeli couscous. I put my own twist on her inspiration: instead of plain Israeli couscous use the Trader Joes harvest grains, and added sweet gherkins which give the tabouli a nice crunch and light sweetness.

Israeli Couscous Tabouli made with Harvest Grains:
  • 1/2 cup Trader Joes harvest grains (or plain Israeli couscous)
  • 3/4 cup water or vegetable broth
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 TB extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 10 cherry tomatoes ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 8 mini sweet gherkins, diced
Add the water to a small pot and bring to a boil. Add the harvest grains, and lower the heat to a simmer, cover with a lid, and let simmer for about 10-15min. Drain and cool to room temperature.

Chop the mint, parsley and cilantro. In a glass storage/serving container, whisk the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, and add the cooled harvest grains, the chopped herbs, the tomatoes and gherkins, and gently stir. Chill for about 1h and serve.
israeli couscous DSC_0235gr

Curried Hummus

Summer is a good time to have a WholeFoods salad mini bar in your fridge: friends come by for a glass of wine and a few tapas plates, lunch and dinner can be arranged without cooking. I have been in the kitchen a lot lately, making dolmades, tomato feta muffins, jam, kale chips with kale from the garden, black bean dip, drying chamomile flowers and catnip… and today I made a batch of curried hummus.

I first had this hummus at the farmers market. They also offer a great hummus with garlic scapes, which I love (the next recreation!). My own version of the curried hummus turned out great. It is a basic hummus recipe but with curry powder and a touch of sweetness with some maple syrup. 

Curried hummus
  • 1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and cooked for 45min with a bay leaf and 3 small garlic cloves (instr see below)
  • 1 TB garlic flavored (or plain) extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 ts salt and some fresh ground pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and microplaned
  • 1 1/2 TB tahini (sesame butter)
  • 1/2 TB curry powder
  • 1 TB maple syrup
  • ca 1/4 of chickpea cooking liquid (or water if using canned chickpeas)
Mix all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Start with half of the cooking liquid and add according to the consistency of the hummus you like. I used the still warm chickpeas and it makes an extra fluffy hummus.
Cooking dried chickpeas:
  • 1 cup dried chickpeas
  • 2-3 cups of water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 cloves garlic
Soak the chickpeas overnight in a container that is about 4 times as large as the space taken up by the dried chickpeas. They expand significantly when they are soaking for over 12h. Once soaked, rinse and place in a pot. 

Cook in 1 1/2 cups of water and add a fresh or dried bay leaf and 2 peeled garlic cloves. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer on low for about 45min (or until soft). Preserve cooking liquid. 

curried hummus curried hummus hummus at FM

Monday, July 18, 2011

The beets are back

Last weekend it was the first time I found beets at the farmers market; this week I even found golden beets. Today, I steamed both the red and golden beets to add them to salads throughout the week. I cleaned them again under some cold water, cut off the leaves (to be sauted later..) and the tips (to be composted) and cut the bigger red beets into 1/2 inch thick slices. The golden beets were too small so I kept them whole. I placed all the beets in a steamer inset, and added about 2 cups of water in the bottom of the pot. Once the water was boiling the steam basically gently cooked the beets; in 20 min they are soften to eat.

I recreated my favorite Bar Harbor salad, mixed greens, balsamic vinaigrette, red and golden beets, feta (or goat cheese) and pine nuts.

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Chillin’ out

Chanelle knows how to chill out on a hot day….. his favorite is a cold stone table or the top of the fridge (I guess inside the fridge would be preferred but on top might also work).

DSC_0159 chanelle_stays_cool

Friday, July 15, 2011

Summer Picnic Lemon Cucumber Vodka

Looking for a summer picnic drink, transportable in a Mason jar? Check out this post.


A little Secret……. Pasta!

I’ve always loved pasta…. spaghetti, penne, farfalle, rigatoni…. you name it and shape it. However, pasta has quite a bit of calories for not a lot of pasta. If you are not running marathons or stuck in the gym for an hour a day but more or less have a desk job and have came to believe that eventually no one can defy the laws of thermodynamics (energy in vs energy out and it does not matter if the calories come in form of whole foods or twinkies), pasta is often a tricky choice: yes, lovely, luxurious and tastes great, but you have to eat like Giada Di Laurentiis (“I always just take 2 bites…”) to look like Giada Di Laurentiis.

A few years ago I found Fiber Gourmet pasta. Let me tell you, my pasta dilemma now is solved (Besides, that it would be great if they’d make farfalle and rigatoni shapes!).

Fiber Gourmet adds a resistant starch to the pasta, which cannot be digested but adds the effect of fiber. The same amount of pasta has 40% less calories, and the fiber is significantly increased. All their pasta just tasted like regular pasta and has the same texture. I’ve served it to people who do not know about FG, and no one noticed. So, you basically can eat almost twice the amount for the same calories. A healthy serving!

Fiber Gourmet pasta comes in short fettucini, elbows, penne, rotini, spaghetti (!!!) and also as lasagna sheets. There are also plenty of flavored fettucini available, which taste great, but I typically put the taste in the sauce and prefer plain pasta.

As for clean eating and avoiding processed foods, the pasta contains only durum semolina flour and the resistant starch. I am not quite happy with engineered starch, but the overall concept makes me as a pasta lover really happy, and brings pasta to the table almost every other day.

Currently, I have not seen Fiber Gourmet pasta in stores, but I order them online ( has a good deal, 2.99 per packages or at FG directly).

Some pasta recipes made with fiber gourmet pasta:

Note: I have not been reimbursed by Fiber Gourmet; any opinions expressed here are my own.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Gin Fizz

There are those days when you need just something else. Something that is out of the ordinary and reminds you of a time, long gone, like a vacation in Verona, Italy, a cocktail to be had after the opera like La Traviata, which ended at 1am and the dinner following the opera, and yes, the Gin Fizz was at 4am, with your circle of friends. But it was summer and vacation, and yes, maybe you had a Gin Fizz before the opera, too. Today I needed escape, 3 of my 4 cats are sick, the 1 year old flat panel tv died on me and there is too much work. I don’t like gin at all, but seeing a tiny bottle in the local liquor store reminded me of the summers long gone. Yes, Gin Fizz.
  • 2 oz gin
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 TB caster or any kind of sugar
  • ice cubes
  • soda water (or regular water if soda water requires another grocery trip).
Add the lemon juice to a glass first, mix in the sugar and stir well. Add the gin, the ice cubes, and fill up with (soda) water. Welcome Italian memories!
gin fizz 3293976460_0067fbcab2

Summer Vegan Paradise

Yesterday at the farmers market, suddenly zucchini appeared for the season, 2 for $1, or 5 for $2. I got five, and believe me, I picked the largest of the bunch. Today, improvising for lunch I looked at the bounty of zucchini in my fridge, and grilling came to mind. Sweet, charred, succulent zucchini slices…… but then I changed my mind and made the first ratatouille of the season. This is a recipe I truly came up with myself and love more than words can say: plenty of coarse chopped summer vegetables, steamed in their own juices with a hint of olive oil and anchovy filets to get them started and plenty of fresh rosemary, basil and thyme, a tad of fresh garlic and parmesan cheese added before serving! A splash of white wine does not hurt. It is the rustic version of ratatouille, but so flavorful!

So, lunch was sauted swiss chard with pine nuts and tofu, a slice of balsamic roasted beets and ratatouille.


Little Wonders

A few weeks ago perusing WholeFoods Market  in Portland I saw that they were selling small potted fig trees. Now, a fig tree is something to plant (and sell) in California or Italy, but not in Maine. Nevertheless I was more than pleased that Wholefoods decided to sell them  anyhow, and I got one. I have a few plants like hibiscus and oleander which are outdoors all summer, but indoor plants during the winter, and so far I’ve been lucky getting them alive through the winter for several years. The fig tree would just have to have the same fate. 

Nevertheless, of course I bought it because I want figs! 


More photos and the rest of the story below. . .

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Vegan pesto

I had read about this pesto a few weeks ago on the EatLiveRun blog, and today when I walked by my bushy basil plants it was time to try it out. I made a few adjustments to the recipe (no breadcrumbs and no parmesan, more garlic and adding pine nuts), and the pesto is so godsmacking good I honestly had to restrain myself from eating the whole pesto pasta right then and there, hungry or not hungry. This pesto misses nothing on the original one (just the calories).
  • 1 cup packed basil leaves
  • 1 cup packed mache (or any other ‘filler’ leaves like baby spinach)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 T white miso (I use sodium reduced white mellow miso)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 1/8 cup water (more or less depending on desired consistency)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon (prevents that the pesto turns brown)
  • optionally (for non-vegan version): 1 oz of sheep's milk feta
Pack all ingredients in a food processor and start with about half of the water. Add tablespoon wise for desire consistency. Chill or use right away.


More photos and the rest of the recipe below. . .

Monday, July 11, 2011

Home-made Stuffed Grape Leaves

My conversation with A. went something like this:

S.: “I now grow fresh mint in my garden. When you come visit next time, you can make these killer mojitos again!” (A. makes the best mojitos known to mankind) 

A. “Hmmm, I am kind of mojitos-ed out….” (Instead of a grad student, A. is now a hard working professional.) “…. but you know what? Fresh mint is great in stuffed grape leaves!!!!” 

I kind of scratched my head; I had had an attempt at stuffed grape leaves a few years ago but somehow did not prepare the leaves quite right and they were too tough to eat. But, I decided to give it another try, with focus on getting the leaves prepared correctly. And, with the help of google search and online tutorials, success was granted this time! 


More photos and the rest of the recipe below. . .

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Summer time

Finally, a really, really hot day with blue skies that asks for a bikini, a relentlessly lazy tanning day and filling the make-shift home pool. Also the fridge is full with fruit, and a cool fruit salad seems just the fare for today. It reminds me of the time when my mom packed up a big cooler with sandwiches and fruit salad, and we would head out to the public pool first thing in the morning, and stay all day, splash in the water, run around, eat, play, meet friends, until the cooler was empty and it was 5pm and time to go home, tired and with manageable temperatures. But I am getting ahead of myself it is only noon!

There are many things to do today, and when you wait for 7month for summer to arrive it feels like not missing out on hikes, the ocean, the beach, but for today I am staying put, at home and maybe at the river. Heat and crowds, not a good combination.

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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Eating well on Saturday

Saturday are the best days in the summer. The fridge is stocked with fresh fish, sheep’s milk feta, goat cheese, and all kinds of green produce from the farmers market. Mixed greens, rainbow chard, garlic scapes, supersized radicchio, kohlrabi, carrots…. so far. Today’s lunch was fresh cod sauted with garlic scapes, cherry tomatoes, white wine and radicchio with balsamic vinaigrette.

cod with garlic

I leave you with some impression from the farmers market..


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Belated Patriotic Salad

The mache salad in the garden is ready for consumption. The (imported) blueberry are plentiful and the local strawberries get ready. With home-made balsamic vinaigrette, and a few chopped pecans this makes a good-looking patriotic salad…

patriotic salad

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Greek Potato Salad

This is a great potato salad to for a potluck BBQ (or your own!) since it is a bit different with sundried tomatoes, kalamata olives and feta cheese. Fresh oregano gives it the extra Greek edge.

  • 1 pound small waxy red potatoes
  • 1/2 red onion, small diced
  • 2 garlic scapes, small dice
  • 150g sheep’s feta cheese
  • 10 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, sliced
  • 2 TB fresh oregano, chopped
  • 2 TB fresh mint, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • some extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Peel the potatoes, cut them in large chunks and place them on a steamer inset in a pot with a lid. Fill the pot with water below the steamer inset; bring water to a boil, place the lid on the pot, and steam the potatoes for 20 min. Drain the water from the pot, and let the potatoes ‘steam off’ and dry out on the stove for about 5min.

Meanwhile finely chop the red onion and add them to a bowl. Chop the garlic scrapes, sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, crumbled feta and the chopped oregano, and mint. Make a dressing with the lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil and salt and pepper. Once the potatoes are cooked and cool enough to handle cut them into cubes and add to the bowl. Add the dressing, and mix all ingredients with the dressing and serve at room temp.

greek potato salad

Monday, July 4, 2011

Farmers Market Smorgasbord

On Saturday, on my quick trip to the farmers market I found several of my favorites: sheep’s milk feta cheese, a huge bunch of crunchy rainbow chard, garlic scapes, and mixed greens. Three of these went into today’s lunch: frying small chopped garlic scapes (think green onions!) in olive oil, adding thinly sliced chard including the colorful stems, and adding fresh ground pepper, sea salt, thinly sliced mushroom, a few cherry tomatoes, and feta, all topped off at the end with some chardonnay. All good!

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Whirlwind weekend

Several friends are in town this weekend for July 4th so this includes almost daily trips to Acadia, with great weather, not so great weather, and great weather again. What can be better than going on a hike in gorgeous weather and catching up, topping it off with eating lobster and ice cream? The find this weekend was Mount Desert Ice Cream, which also recently won a place in Food and Wine’sBest Ice Cream Spots in the US”. Tasting a scoop of the cardamon cinnamon I can only say, well deserved!


bar harbor lobstermount desert ice cream

bar harbor leo

acadia hikeDSC_0700