Sunday, September 29, 2013

Indian summer in Belfast

The day was so beautiful it made me weep. Sunny, warm, golden, perfect. A reminder of what summer just was, at least a reminder for a few days: Indian summer. The weather was too gorgeous to take on responsibility for house and garden and off I was to the ocean, at last. Belfast, with its antique malls on the way, and its ever growing ensemble of restaurants, stores, pottery places, revamped ocean front and microbreweries. Yes, it is fall in the making and people started to bring in their boats for the winter, but also enjoy them still on the ocean. The only place to have my shipyard seasonal pumpkin beer was… in the shade.
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"Open by chance or appointment” the sign read at Front Street Pottery. I have visited Belfast for 8 years, and there was never a ‘chance’ opening of the pottery store until today. I ventured inside. One of those hand-made teapots found a new home….
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Three Tides Microbrewery and beer garden.
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Route 1 bridge in the back, and the pedestrian bridge below.
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Newly paved walk and bike way on the ocean front connecting all the beer bars and restaurants.
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Downtown Belfast, and yes, it was more pleasant in the shade.
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One day, I will buy a house here.
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Until then, I’ll visit.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Indian summer ahead

The Indian summer is back --- beautiful sunny, mild weather for the next few days and a weekend on top of it These days I try to stay ahead of any cold with my morning mix of a cup of fresh cider from the farmers market, a few frozen strawberries and bananas, all mixed in the vitamix, a surprisingly good refreshing mix with the right amount of sweet, fresh and tart. My immune cells send me thank you cards.

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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Individual Italian plum crumbles

The treasure’s at yesterday’s farmers market included a steal/deal on more Italian plums. I was thinking of making another plum cake but decided to stay light and just make a crumble. I found this wonderful recipe with the key ingredient of spiced candied ginger and cinnamon. Instead of a single large baking dish I used individual ramekins and just some rolled oats with sugar as topping. The soul is in the plums anyhow, right? Once it is all bubbly and hot it is ready to serve!

Plum Crumble
Serves 2-3 (probably just 1)

10 purple Italian or prune plums, cut in half and pitted
1 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 heaping tablespoons finely chopped candied ginger (chop by hand!)
3-4 tablespoons rolled oats + 1/2 TB brown sugar + pinch of cinnamon
Vanilla ice cream, optional

1. Place plums in medium bowl, add brown sugar, candied sugar, ground ginger, cinnamon and the flour. Mix well . Heat oven to 375 degrees, with rack in center.

2. Distribute plums  in 3 ungreased, oven-safe small ramekins.

3. In a small bowl, combine rolled oats, cinnamon and the sugar. Mix well. Sprinkle over plums.

4. Bake for ca 35min. Cool (slightly) and serve.

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Curried hummus

This morning started out with rain, and plenty of stuff to do around the kitchen. First of all, the chickpeas cooked all day on low in the slow cooker yesterday needed to be converted into hummus. This time I used a farmers market inspiration of curried hummus and created my own version. – A classic hummus recipe but with a dash of curry and a tablespoon of maple syrup. Delight!
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Curried hummus (ca 2 cups)
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas, liquid reserved 
  • 1/2 tsp fleur de sel (or kosher salt), or to taste
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup tahini  (sesame paste)
  • 2 Tbsp reserved chickpea liquid (or water)
  • a few drops of Tabasco sauce, to taste
  • 1/2 – 1  teaspoon curry powder (start with less)
  • 1 TB maple syrup
Place all ingredients into a food processor (except the salt) and process until the hummus is finely pureed. Scoop into a bowl and drizzle with a good quality olive oil and serve.   curry_hummus2

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The annual hippie fest

Yesterday, I finally had a day ahead of me with no pressing work, beautiful weather AND the annual common ground fair in Unity. A perfect combination. I put on my best hippie clothes and off I went to Unity. When I arrived at noon, the first wave of visitors was already leaving, the many, many school buses with the students whose teachers deemed common ground fair a valuable part of education. It was still humming with people since the weather would be slowly declining from fantastic to good to rain by Sunday.   I made my rounds, sampled the free bread, goat cheese, and fromage blanc, smelled the home made soaps, investigated the pottery, stocked up on a new hand-made cherry wood cooking spatula, fed the sheep with clover, had some honey sweetened lemonade, and was all-around happy.
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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

When apples turned into pears

The other Sunday I set out to go apple picking on Maine Apple day. I drove to a nearby apple orchard, and the wonderful old man said “We have NO apples this year. The spring was too long and too cold, no pollination. Never happened to me in the 30 years I have this orchard.” Bummer. “We have pears. Do you want some?” Apples, oranges. Pears. Oh well, “Of course!”
So I drove home with a bag of rock hard pears, but within a week they’ve turned soft in rapid speed and I try to come up with new recipes. One is definitely a classic: mixed greens,sliced pear, gorgonzola, balsamic vinaigrette and walnuts. Or, cranberries in my case.


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Salad bowl, the beautiful

I do have a thing for wooden hand-made salad bowls and  have 2 already and I realize anymore would be more a collecting (hoarding?) and museum type need. But, they are so, so beautiful. Like these three on etsy. Love!

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Monday, September 16, 2013

European lunch

The weather forecast promises another sunny, warm week for this week, starting this afternoon. Currently it is gray and so chilly I closed the windows and turned on the heat. Might have to change from t-shirts as standard outfit to sweaters soon. Socks, too. Lunch was unusual, sweet instead of savory, but the mini plum tart and a cup of coffee seemed like such a European lunch, like eaten in a Vienna coffee house. Only the whipped cream was missing. On both coffee and tart.

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Swiss Plum Tart

Today I finally managed to bake an authentic Swiss “Waehe”, a plum tart with a very thin dough crust, fresh ground hazelnuts (filberts), Italian plums, and a custard made with eggs, cream, milk and some vanilla and sugar. – Delight!

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Swiss Plum Tart (“Zwetschgenwaehe”)
Regular 9 inch size tart pan, or a smaller and 2 mini ones.
  • homemade or store-bought short pastry or puff pastry (I used a frozen store-bought pie dough)
  • 1 pound Italian plums (or apricots, apples, or cherries), pitted and cut in quarters
  • 3-4 tablespoon of ground hazelnuts or almonds
  • 2 eggs
  • 100 ml milk
  • 100 ml whipping cream
  • 2 teapsoons of flour
  • 1-3 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 425F degrees (220C).

Layer a pie tin with thin short pastry or puff pastry, sprinkle the base slightly with ground hazelnuts or almonds. baked in the oven for 7 min to give the crust some stability.

Mix the prepared plums with 1 TB sugar. Once the pie crust is prebaked, remove it from the oven, and arrange the plum slices in a round pattern.  Add 1 TB sugar sprinkled over the fruit and bake in the oven on the lower part for 10 minutes

Meanwhile mix eggs with the milk, whipping cream and flour, add 2 more tablespoons of sugar. Season with vanilla extract. Pour the custard mix over the fruitcake and bake for another 20 minutes. Let it set for 10 min before serving taking it out of the pan. Serve with some whipped cream.

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Italian plums, pie dough with hazelnuts, and sugared plums.
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Arranged plums in pre-baked crust. Custard added to prebaked fruit.
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Baking!
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Setting for 10 minutes.
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Bon appetite!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

From bike to office

The last two years I had a serious Lululemon obsession, but this year I finally just wore all the cool clothes and did not buy anymore --- until today. I opened the Lululemon email with their new products and my desire was set on fire again: a beautiful shirt that looks like an office shirt but it really a bike shirt. Not only is it beautiful and functional I have the hope that I don’t need to iron it (like all my other white shirts, which is a serious bottleneck in my closet). So, there. I ordered it. Fortunately I abstained from the equally enticing biker pants that just look like your perfect black skinny jeans for the fall and a beautiful oversized jacket. A, gotcha ya again.  (all opinions my own, no one reimbursed me ;-) )

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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Tug of war with a summer cold

Sunday. I woke up feeling the legacy of the week, too much work plus the encounter of some summer cold germs. It felt like a tug of war, me pulling to health with Vitamin C and rest and the germ pulling to their side with still a lot of work to do and deadlines. This morning I upped the ante, and ventured out in the garden again, a pink umbrella over my head, with rainboots, a big bowl and scissors. I cut off another 2 pounds of elderberries. “That’ll do it…!” While talking over facetime with a friend, I picked them, cooked with 2 quarts of water, about 5 min after they came to a boil, and strained them with a stainless steel mesh sieve.  Now, just a bit of sweetener and the superpowers are ready to go. (If you believe, it’ll happen, right?)

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Saturday, September 7, 2013

The fruit of the land

After a rainy and sunny week there was one thing everyone seemed to do this Saturday morning: mow the lawn. With that we were all synchronized again with a clean cut lawn. Mine started out with removing some hoses that I use in the summer to keep the garden watered, clearing out weeds in the vegetable garden, cutting back the rhubarb to freeze the stalks and a first harvest of the ripe elderberries in my garden. Elderberries are probably just known amongst the hippiest of the hippies in the US, but they are fairly common in Europe. Looking like blueberries, but a sweet-bitter taste make them less popular. Nevertheless, I swear by elderberry juice in the fall with a hefty amount of Vitamin C fencing off the first colds.

These days I make myself a vegan smoothie in the morning, mostly with frozen strawberries, almond milk, a bit of stevia and a tablespoon physillum seed. This morning I added a cup of fesh elderberries and a stalk of rhubarb. Delicious! The fruit of my own land.

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Friday, September 6, 2013

The Story of the Incredible Fringe Markup

It all started earlier this year, when I ventured into the brandnew JCrew store in the Maine mall and a cheerful sales girl halted me at the JCrew jewelry show box. “Do you have any JCrew jewelry? It’s my favorite in the entire store?!” How can you say no to a cheerful, pretty sales girl? She directed me to a more subdued necklace (more Maine appropriate), but my eye caught the fan fringe necklace.
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Big, bold, in your face. I never wear much jewelry beside the one that I wear all the time, but this started the idea of jewelry as fashion statement. But, after some inner debate I realized the price tag is too steep, because what if it is so bold I get tired of it after wearing it 3 times?
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$148. Fastforward to August. I never quite forgot the necklace. and then J had not just one but 4! They were knockoffs but at Ily Couture one would get them with a J-coupon for $16 instead of $40.
Now, we are talking.
I snagged up one for $20 with shipping, and love it. I wanted more colors, and eagerly I retrieved the coupon again, but the sale had ended by end of August 2013. Illy Couture itself still had a labor day sale, which also reduced the price to $16 with coupon, but I had missed that by 1 day, too. Gah.
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Now, I was even less willing to pay full price, and googled for more options. Sleuthing I found a wholesale site which offers them for 0.99-9.99 per piece. Hmm, that is quite the markup. From 0.99 to 148 at JCrew? No wonder they can firesale them for $16 at Ily.
As usually, ebay and even amazon is the direct outlet channel for all things counterfeit from China, and in this case, since it is not an expensive hair straightening iron, where the original would make my hair shiny, and the knockoff fry it, I was ok with getting the knockoff.  $10.99? Sign me up, and send me one for my friend, too.
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Monday, September 2, 2013

Raining into September

When the thermometer shows sinking temperatures, my interest in cooking in on the rise again. An interesting effect I notice every summer. There I grow vegetables and fresh herbs, the farmers market overflows with produce yet I cannot bring myself to the stove but rather eat out. When I start scanning recipes with more interest again it is September. Over the years I learnt to just plant some kale or swiss chard for my likely consumption, the herbs are for decoration and summer feeling and maybe dried or frozen eventually.

It is raining cats and dogs today on this Labor Day 2013, no chance for picturesque outdoor BBQs or last hurrahs in the Acadia mountains. The students arrived this weekend, for many it is their first weekend away from home. University life might not be what they expected. I am cleaning out my offices, exchange summer shoes for winter shoes, and cook a hearty lunch --- Swiss chard, chickpeas, a hot pepper, some vegan parmesan cheese, and this steeping hot mess is warming me up and brace for what is to come for the next school year.

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