Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fall is approaching

There is no denying it, fall is around the corner. We moved on to tomatoes, crisp apples and the first pumpkins at the farmers market. In a while there will only be all kinds of pumpkins and mostly root vegetables. Cheese production will be closed until next year. But then, there are also local melons, yellow and red watermelons, honeydew melons, and all the hot peppers are ready. It is my favorite time of the year at the farmers market.

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Monday, August 29, 2011

After the storm the sun returns

I also could have titled this post "Messy spaghetti".

I am glad the storm has passed, and I am grateful we were mostly spared from its impact, i.e. power outages, and downed trees or flooding. Not everyone was so lucky. Today, the sun shines again, a few roads are closed due to fallen or half-fallen trees and everyone is cleaning up. Neatly stacked cut tree limbs along the roadside, blue-washed shiny sky and birds chirping. Life is back to normal. 


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane food stash, sort of.

It is rainy today, and the wind has picked up, bending the tall birches in my backyard almost to the floor when gusts slosh through the garden. I hope it is soon over with;  by tonight probably. In my worst case scenarios it all looked a lot more dramatic, but 2 days of following Irene on the weather channel and one day of actually Irene has kind of saturated my interest in this hurricane. Enough already.

I am also getting tired of being cooped up indoors and I think I need to have a long run on the treadmill soon. As for eats, mixed greens with balsamic vinaigrette, and a portion of cold pre-cooked spaghetti from the stash (in case the power goes out) with the still chilled avocado arugula pesto.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Not so lucky

Today felt like deja vu. Instead of hunting down an AC unit I was looking for a small generator to serve as a backup for the sump pump. But, alas, me thinking I am early and well prepared (hey, it is still sunny and hot outside) I was again behind the curve, and all units were sold out everywhere. Ok, Home Depot had a new delivery of $999 generators, which basically provide backup electricity for a whole house. But besides the price my house is not set up for a generator like this. So, it was out. I found rechargeable large battery packs, but the 800 Watts one that would work for the sump pump were also sold out. Eventually I found a battery-powered backup sump pump at Lowes, but the unit was 250, the battery sold separate for 130, and the whole things had to be installed with the current sump pump. Where to get a plumper on a hurricane weekend?!

So, there are 2 things to do: playing sump pump myself and praying that the power does not go out for too long. Secretly thinking that maybe it is all media hype again and the worst of the hurricane might go down over a hunkered down NYC and Boston.

To cheer myself up I headed to the Folk festival, listened to some cajun and Japanese music, took in the marvelous smells of a mishmash of ethnic foods, and ate some smoked cajun salmon on a stick. I might enjoy the rest of the sunny day under the last umbrella left on my deck and the last 2 chairs. Irene, please play somewhere else..


Friday, August 26, 2011

The calm before the storm

Today was a gorgeous day. Overcast and cool in the morning, but sunny, splendid and warm in the afternoon and evening. I flocked, like many others, to the American Folk Festival in Bangor. It is hard to believe that in a few days we should be assaulted by Irene, at least that is what the governor and the weather channel say. The folk festival is cut down to 2 days thanks to Irene, and I guess the lawn furniture and plants are coming in early this year. I even bought a new flashlight today.

I am a bit worried that I don’t have a battery backup to my sump pump and if electricity goes I won’t be just out of that seasonal frozen summer squash and sweet corn but the basement might flood again. Indoor swimming pool? Worst case: that beautiful, several hundred year old tree in the back of my house might actually flatten the house.

oh dear.

Please, Irene, take a right turn.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Summer Squash and Sweet Corn Soup

It is slowly soup time again, even hot soup if it is not too hot outside, but a light soup with ingredients of the season: plenty of summer squash and fresh local sweet corn at its peak. I found this recipe from Love & Olive Oil on Pinterest today, and it did pin my interest (summer squash and sweet corn soup?!) that much that I made it for dinner tonight. It is lovely! And summery light. 

(Since I made several changes to the recipe I rewrote it including the changes. The photo is the original. Hope it pins your interest, too.)

(Makes about 4-5 servings)
  • 2 large yellow summer squash
  • 1 ear fresh sweet corn
  • 1 white onion
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 1 fresh red hot chile
  • 1/2 olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 ts vegetable bouillon
Half the summer squash and then cut it crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Remove the hulls from the corn and with a knife cut the kernels from the cob. Reserve the cob. Chop the white onion and mince the garlic. Mince the chile.

In a 5-quart heavy pot heat the oil and add the onion, garlic and chile. Stir and saute for 1-2 min. Now add the corn and summer squash and cook for another 2 min on medium heat. Add the water, the bouillon and the cob, and simmer the mixture until squash is tender, about 15-20 minutes, with the lid on. Discard the cob. 

Using an immersion blender puree the mixture in the pot (otherwise wait until the soup is cooled and puree in food processor, but only when cooled!!). Season the soup with salt and pepper if needed. Serve soup and garnish with cilantro, sour cream and a drizzle of olive oil.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Lululemon treasure chest?

Do you have a lululemon treasure chest? For me, it all started with Gina, and her love for lululemon active wear. I bought my first racerback shirt last year, and was not too impressed. Flimsical and expensive. Hmm. But then I got the wonder under pant, and it was LOVE. What material! What flattering fit! Now, I have got quite a few items and, although my fitness wear is ordered by activity/seasons(winter/summer, trainers, running, yoga, etc.) I have one drawer only for lululemon wear. Since the stuff is pricey (but worth every penny), I call it my treasure chest.

Lately, I added my first speed shorts, a ta-ta-tamer and the beautiful loosely fitting Silver Bullet Sleeveless Tech. All dressed up running with Katy Perrys’ Fireworks, I felt like running like a gazelle. A lululemon styled gazelle.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Local freshwater fish with a side of good friends

My friends A. and R. with their daughters V. and A. were in town (or let’s say in the state) and had rented a cottage at Damariscotta lake for a week. The weather was gorgeous for most of the time, allowing for paddling to the little sun deck in the lake with the canoe or getting canoe service by V., hanging out, catching up and getting a serious tan on the side. Lovely day! 


R. had manage to catch some fish in the lake, and so there was dinner. A perch and a bass, carefully prepared and simply steamed by being wrapped in aluminum foil on the BBQ. With it came potatoes wrapped in foil and cooked in the camp fire with a charcoal crust and soft on the inside, sweet corn and steak. The setting could not be better: a lake view and sunset.

Friday, August 19, 2011

More important things

I’ve been slacking with posting lately, but these are the heydays (or last hurray?) of summer and there are just more interesting and important things to do than cooking and food: getting out and exploring, going swimming, visits from friends, going to the coast and other good things. It is also the time when the farmers market produces an abundance of vegetables and it feels like vegetable paradise. Ah, summer.

I leave you with the wonderful mixed greens that I get from the farmers market, which is a wonderful mix that includes bib salad and even flower petals.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Of hikes, food and art

The other day, I put on my new keens and headed out for a hike to Acadia National Park. It was a hot day, and the airy Keens were just the ticket.


After the hike it was time for some food. This time I headed to Southwest Harbor, which is also located on Mount Desert Island, but it is a smaller community, nevertheless with similarly good food and some shopping like Bar Harbor. Signs at the light poles all over the island announced the SW Harbor Art Fair, so SW Harbor it was. To grab some food, I went to the Sawyer market, which is an old fashioned market with hardwood floors and top notch food, a cheese bar and large wine collection. The store’s back area serves as the produce department in the summer, and is housed under a tent.


After some cherries and a slice of pizza from Little Notch Bakery, right next to Sawyer market, it was time for art. Local artists exhibited their work and there were quite a few pieces I liked (but could not afford and so only photographed). (The photo to the right is from the Bar Harbor Art show, on the same day).


After some hiking, food AND art it was time to testdrive the Keens during some clam digging in the low tide. Summers in Maine are just great. Messy, muddy Keens, not so much.

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Home-made Storage Magic

I was green with envy when I saw Gina’s new storage containers on her blog. I had seen the chalk ‘thing’’ on glasses and coffee mugs before and just shrugged, but on storage jar? Genius. The World Market website has the jars for sale online, but I have a large number of almost exactly the same storage glasses already (from Ikea), just without the very handy chalkboard. 

I scratched my head. 

Investing in a new set of storage jars? No. Then I realized that you can actually buy chalkboard paint! Genius II. I scoured Lowes, and they have their own Valspar brand chalkboard paint, but there are also other brands out there. 

chalkboard paint

Paint and brush in hand, I just needed, well, chalk. Today, it seems like you have to get it at a teachers’ specialty store because everyone else has crayons and dry-erase, but, alas there is always the artist’s store with chalk colors.

The project was easy: paint the jar, and keep on writing.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Best Beet Salad Ever

The other day on one of my staycation trips I had a Beet Knick wrap at the newly open 86 this! wrap place in Ellsworth. The flavor that made this wrap was the beet salad. I immediately had to replicate the beet salad with the pungent flavors of garlic, lemon and a lot of garlic. To die for!

beet knick wrap

Best beet salad ever:
  • 3 large raw red beets
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 oz sheep’s milk feta (or any full-fat feta) – since it is salty, there is no extra salt needed
  • 2 TB of dried or fresh dill
Clean the beets, cut off the ends, and cut each beet in half. Now, slice each half beet into 1/2 inch thick slices and place into a vegetable steamer. Boil the water and steam the beets in the vegetable steamer over medium heat for 25min (or until a knife tip cuts softly into the beets).
Cool the beets. Then cut the beets into small dice. In a blender make the dressing: add the Greek yogurt, the dill, garlic cloves, feta, pepper and lemon juice and blend. Pour over the beets and gently mix. Cool so that the flavors can combine. Serve in a wrap, on a sandwich, as a side or a salad. But in any case, enjoy!!

beet salad

Beet salad with mache, blue cheese crumbles, and mint pistachio pesto.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Zucchini Deluge

Yes, I am still eating around here. But the summer brings simple meals. Sauteed zucchini deluge, with miso pesto, some pasta, cherry tomatoes, just simple straight from the garden (or farmers market) into the pan. Good eats!


Saturday, August 6, 2011

High Noon

Staycation continued, with another trip to Acadia. I threw my bike in the back of my car and headed to the coast.


Since I had a late start the kale smoothie did not hold me over anymore at 3pm, and a Trenton bridge lobster came before biking this time.


I headed to Eagle lake to bike to Jordan Pond again. Since it is currently high noon of the tourist season instead of eating popovers and drinking coffee in style and on a bench with umbrella and table I sat on the lawn with an ice cream. 

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Yes, napping after a hilly bike ride sounded about right.
I biked back to Eagle lake and took the long route along the lake instead of heading straight back to the parking lot. Clouds come in from the ocean and it became significantly cooler, chilly even if dressed only in an exercise tanktop.

Back in Bar Harbor, I found the brandnew bakery, the Little Notch Bakery, a cute store with a large community table and free wi-fi, pizza, sandwiches and pastries. Nice!

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Dinner was at a beautiful gem that I just recently discovered: the Lompoc Cafe. It is off the main shopping roads, quieter, with a bocce lane, large trees, outdoor seating and with about the best and freshest local fare I have found so far in Bar Harbor. 


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Preserving Basil

It is the time of the year when the fresh basil is plentiful in the garden. I often plant up to 20 plants for the summer, and harvest them several times to freeze basil for the winter. This year the spring was cold and wet, something basil does not do too well with and I just have a few plants. The farmers market to the rescue ….. ! Ever since I discovered vegan pesto, I am one of their biggest basil buyers. On Tuesday, I bought a whole pound of basil for $6. A steal! After making a large batch of pesto I still had 3/4 of the basil left, and I decided to replenish my frozen basil stash. 

Dried basil is not really where it’s at, but fresh basil can be very expensive in the winter in Maine. This is a great way to preserve fresh basil and use it later for pasta sauces. There is almost no difference in taste between fresh and frozen basil.


How to freeze basil.

Special equipment: ice cube tray, sharp knife, freezer

First, cut the basil leaves off the stems and layer about 8 leaves on top of each other and roll them up like a cigar.


Next, take a sharp knife and start from the top of the rolled basil leaves and cut the basil roll into thin stripes or ribbons (technical term: chiffonade the basil).


Typically, one of these small piles can be stuffed into a single ice cube tray pocket. Proceed with the basil until the ice cube tray is filled.

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Now, pour a bit of cold water into each individual ice cube tray pocket; once the water is frozen, it will preserve the basil and keep it in place. 


Place the tray in the freezer until the water is frozen solid. At this point the ‘basil cubes’’ can be removed from the tray, and stored as individual cubes in a large ziplock back in the freezer.

A ‘basil ice cube’ can be added to a pasta sauce without thawing. The water cooks off and the basil cooks with the sauce like fresh basil. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Blueberry Cheesecake (with Greek yogurt)

Here is a new way to indulge in fabulous Greek yogurt: making cheesecake!  I could have made a graham cracker crust, but I did not have any crackers on hand, so it is a crustless cheesecake with fresh blueberries. It is easy to whip up with just a few ingredients, mainly featuring non-fat Greek yogurt.
  • 1 cup non-flavored Greek yogurt
  • 1 eggwhite
  • a few drops of liquid stevia
  • 1/4 ts vanilla extract
  • 1 TB all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup fresh Maine blueberries (the small ones)
  • almond slivers
In a small bowl, whisk the yogurt with the eggwhite until smooth, and add the liquid sweetener and vanilla. Sift in the flour and whisk until smooth. Gently fold in the blueberries and distribute into 2 small ramekins. Arrange a few blueberries and almond slivers on top.

Bake (in toaster oven) at 400F for 25min. Let cool, and serve.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Blue Hill and blueberries

Yesterday was my first official day of vacation. Since I am staying home, it is more of a ‘staycation’ and playing tourist in my own state. Having an accent and clicking away with a camera constantly comes in handy to playing this part perfectly ;-)

Yesterday, I was in the mood to just take a drive on the rural coastal Maine country roads, which curve from small town to small town, private, with blistering heat and shaded by large trees along the roads, and not a tourist in sight. For a moment there it felt like being in Provence in August.

I stopped to pay tribute to the annual blueberry crop, had a lobster roll in Penobscot, my favorite place where only locals end up at, sitting on a large rock on the ocean, and heading over to Blue Hill, a fairly private and artsy community. Good days!

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Playing my tourist part, I also stopped for the first time at the Penobscot History Society's open house at the General Store, and the 1-room school house.

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general store penobscot ME

Blue Hill at low tide.