Wednesday, May 28, 2014

May frost

It was unusually cold today, the temperatures went back to the 40s, bye-bye t-shirt weather. The afternoon was blue sky, nice and sunny so I cranked up the charcoal mini BBQ for dinner. It cooks everything in a zinch, and keeps you warm while eating dinner with a glass of wine. For tonight, a frost warning is issued. So, the potted plants were moved inside the house again. Oh well.






Monday, May 26, 2014

Holding on to summer

Well, the prognosis was much worse than then the actual weather this Memorial weekend. It was sunny and warm most of the time, just difficult to plan anything.





I had some eggs that needed to go. I could have baked a cake but no one is around to eat cake so I made the next best thing: mini quiche, great for lunch or on the go.


Swiss Chard Mini Quiches (makes 6 mini quiche, 80kcal each)

  • 2 organic eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup frozen or fresh corn kernels
  • 1/4 onion, finely diced
  • ts olive oil
  • 3 large leaves of Swiss chard or chard, sliced in thin stripes (remove stem if you like so)
  • 1/2 cup of cooked rice
  • 1/4 cup pinot grigio
  • 1 ts bouillon

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a muffin pan for 6 muffins (regular size)

In a bowl, whisk the eggs until slightly frothy. Add the milk, salt and pepper, and whisk again until well-combined. Set aside.

In a saute pan, heat the olive oil, and add the onion and corn, and saute until onions are translucent. Add the remaining ingredients, mix well, and heat through until the liquid is cooked off.

Set aside and let slightly cook. Pour into a cold mixing bowl.

Add the egg mixture, mix through, and distributed into 6 muffin holes in the pan. Bake for 30min. Serve hot or cold.


Saturday, May 24, 2014

A word about wine

It is summertime, Memorial weekend, and besides turning on the BBQ, people also love to open a bottle of cold beer, drink a icy cocktail or a refreshing glass of wine. It is all part of the social aspects of summer: a get-together with friends under the shade of umbrellas, snacking on pita chips and hummus, the rewarding drink after a long, sweaty hike, a nice glass of wine with the luncheon on a vacation day. My favorite drink is definitely a glass of wine. But not all wines are the same.

The alcohol content in wine is one of the major contributors to the amount of calories in wine. The higher the percentage of alcohol, the higher the calories. How come? Wine mostly consists of water, a little bit of sugar, and the rest is alcohol. Alcohol clocks in at 7 calories per gram (while carbs/sugars only come in at 4 calories per gram). Therefore, a sweeter wine can have fewer calories than a dry wine with high alcohol content.

For example, a glass (148ml/5fl oz) of alcohol-free red wine has only ca. 25 calories (based on the brand) but the same amount of regular red wine clocks in at 135 calories. So, here is is a small guide to aid your informed selections.

1. Check the ABV. There are no actual nutrition labels on bottles of wine, but you can use the Alcohol by Volume (ABV) percentage to approximate the calories. ABVs can range from 9 percent for low-alcohol wines up to 17 percent for some dry wines. If you aim for an ABV that's between 9 to 12 percent, you will get about 87 to 115 calories per 5 oz glass (check out my calorie calculator below).

2. Buy European. Look for European wines from regions like Italy, and France, and try to avoid wines grown in warmer regions like Californian, Chile or Australia, where higher sugar content in grapes converts to higher ABV in wines.

3. Choose light, dry whites. In general, white wines tend to be lower in alcohol and calories than reds. While light whites have around 110 calories or less per 5 ounce glass, a light red has between 115 to 130 calories, while a higher-alcohol red like pinot noir or syrah can have up to 150 in a glass.

4. Avoid added sugar in Champagne. But be sure to check the label for a "brut nature" or "brut zero" designation, which signifies that hardly any extra sugar has been added. One five-ounce glass of brut nature Champagne has around 120 calories, compared to around 175 for a sweet (aka "doux") Champagne or a sweet sparkling wine.

Recently, several low-calories (i.e. wine with low alcohol content) have come into the market. For example, Skinnygirl wines, or Skinny Vine. I must admit I have not tried any of them because any food or beverage that has “skinny'” on its label has the latent odor of deprivation, and I feel I need to make up with something else (more chips or 2 glasses of skinny wine?). However, as a rule of (alcohol intelligence) thumb for this summer, light whites are a lighter choice.

I created this handy calculator: enter the ABV of your wine (works for any alcoholic beverage), your serving size in milliliter (5oz are 148ml, and a bottle of wine is 750ml) and it will calculate the alcohol units in your drink as well as the calories for wine (it works quite well for spirits, too, but beer has a higher baseline calorie content). So, be accountable.

Wine Calculator:
Alcohol by Volume (ABV) %:
Alcohol units:

Typical serving sizes:

Glass:  4fl =118ml; 5fl oz = 148ml (small glass of wine), 8flz = 237ml (typical serving size in a bar/restaurant)
Bottle: 750ml = 25 floz;

(Note, that the recommendation is for no more than 2-3 alcohol units/day for women, and for men 3-4 units based on the calculator above.)

ABVs of wines:
Very Low (under 12.5 percent)
Sparkling: Italian Asti, Italian Prosecco.
White: French Vouvray and Muscadet, German Riesling, Portuguese Vinho Verde, Spanish Txacolina.
Rosé: California White Zinfandel, Portuguese rosés.
Moderately Low (12.5 to 13.5 percent)
Sparkling: California sparkling wine, French Champagne, Spanish Cava.
White: Austrian Grüner Veltliner, Australian Riesling, French Alsace white, French Loire and Bordeaux whites, French white Burgundy, Italian Pinot Grigio, New York Riesling, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Oregon Pinot Gris, South African Sauvignon Blanc, Spanish Albarino.
Rosé: French rosés, Spanish rosés.
Red: French Beaujolais and Burgundy, French Bordeaux, Italian Chianti, Spanish Rioja.
High (13.5 to 14.5 percent)
White: Australian Chardonnay, California Chardonnay, California Pinot Gris, California Sauvignon Blanc, California Viognier, Chilean Chardonnay, French Sauternes, South African Chenin Blanc.
Red: Argentine Malbec, Australian Shiraz, California Cabernet Sauvignon, California Pinot Noir, California Syrah, Chilean Merlot, French Rhône red, Italian Barolo.
Very High (more than 14.5 percent)
White: French Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise (fortified), Portuguese Madeira (fortified), Spanish sherry (fortified).
Red: California Petite Sirah, California Zinfandel, Italian Amarone, Portuguese port (fortified).

Other resources:
Comparison of calories in wine

Friday, May 23, 2014


So, are you invited, waiting or even interested? Guiliana Rancic is waiting.


Rain bucket

Yesterday I woke up to bright sunshine, unexpectedly, since the weather forecast focuses on the occasional rain shower each day, and every day looks like an entire day of “rain”. It was bright, sunny and the first thing to do was to mow the lawn before it would rain in the afternoon (which it never did). A whole day of sunshine made me do a little happy dance and realize “It’s the holiday weekend!” I ran errands, trying to beat the ‘severe weather’ moving in from the west which eventually went elsewhere. When I came home the neighbors had the BBQ smoking and it smelled like hamburgers, the dad armed with the tongs stood next to the bbq. Summer is finally here.

Today, it is back to gray skies and a ‘chance of showers’. My ‘holiday, let’s live it up’ mood is gone poof. Time to read a book, teach myself web programming, and curb my summer plan enthusiasm.


The rain bucket will get another fill.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Gearing up for Memorial weekend

The weather outlook was bleak until Sunday but today unexpectedly the sun is coming out. Early summer warmth and brightness, something I really need. It has been raining since Saturday. It is humid from all the rain and the thermometer immediately spikes. The outlook for the day is promising.


Life in a college town in the summer is quiet, everyone seems either gone or traveling, the occasional grad student around. I debate sometimes how it would be to be like the protagonist of Under the Tuscan sun and be off to my Italian or French fixer upper villa for the summer months. Or sit in a Parisian flat, in the minimalist kitchen and read a book looking out the window. But then, Maine is a destination in itself for the summer.


May is almost over, had to believe, the first of the 4 summer months. It had mixed weather and still much work, and slowly things are easing into the summer mode. It is high time for hay fever and black flies. Finding all those white jeans again. Gearing up for Memorial Day weekend, BBQ and pool supplies, and maybe a shopping weekend in Freeport/Portland with memorial day deals. Long weekend ahead!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Pink Pasta

There is no end to the rain, the plants like it, the rhubarb decided to be the blooming variety in all its splendor, something I never experienced until now. Unfortunately, blooming rhubarb stalks are hollow. There goes the rhubarb cake. Today, I explored smartphones, smartphone plans, smartphone plans on the go, mobile hotspots, mobile broadband, and again feel like I don’t need a smartphone, but it would be nice. It is just too expensive if you rarely use the phone and rarely are on the road to use cellular based internet.

Oh well.

At least this pink pasta is a winner. I’ve been making in several days in a row. So simple, beautiful and tasty.


Pink pasta (1 serving)

  • 1 small beet (size of a lemon), peeled, diced in 1/2 inch dice
  • 1/2 cup of hot water (more if needed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon bouillon
  • handful of small pasta (1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup frozen corn
  • 1/4 cup beans (like cannellini or kidney beans)

In a bottom heavy small pot, pour the water, dice the beet and add the bouillon. Stir, add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer on low-medium with closed lid for about 15 min. The beet will still have a bit of a bite and the pasta is cooked. Serve with some crème fraiche or sour cream.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Rainy week ahead

There is always a week in May when it just rains. All is green, the lawns and the trees, but it just rains as if to soak the ground for the coming growing season. This is one of those weeks. Initially, there were a few sunny days on the weather forecast, but not it is rain until the weekend. To keep the mood up, sunshine is on the schedule for Memorial day before things go back to rain. Somehow I feel that last hope might also still disappear.

Rain. Now what?

Here is to back to the office lunch salad.


Saturday, May 17, 2014

La Tour de France

On a rainy summer night, the idea can occur to look into old photo archives, and start to travel,… travel in France, like I did a few years ago. Such good memories.
It started in Paris and led to the the Dordogne, here, Sarlat-la-Caneda.
Next stop: Cahors.


Fresh beet, carrot and apple salad

The other day I wrote the ‘ode to a gray day’, but today I am not so much in gray day ode-ing mood. To freshen up the day with some color, I made a grated beet and carrot salad.


I grated a small beet and 2 carrots, mixed them with  the juice of a Meyer Lemon and its zest, a teaspoon of sugar, added a half chopped apple and served the grated beets with with fresh greens from the market and blue cheese.


Rhubarb Strawberry Smoothie (vegan)

The other day I thinned out the sprawling rhubarb plants. This called for the first rhubarb crumble! But then I was too busy and I ended up with making smoothies instead. --- They are delicious!


Rhubarb Strawberry Smoothie (vegan)

  • 2 stalks rhubarb, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh strawberries
  • 1 1/2 cups almond milk
  • a few drops of liquid stevia (or 2 TB sugar)

Place all ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth, ca 30 sec. Serve!

First summer outing

The rain started this morning. It pours sideways. Thunderstorms on the way. Today, it is back to work. Yesterday, on the other hand, was the first summer outing. Fueled by coffee from Rooster Bros., I bought plants at Surry Gardens and stopped by Sweet Pea Gardens. Via the beautiful Maine back roads I continued to Belfast. On the way, I stopped by the Treasure Barn, where I found a piece of aged barnwood, good as a food photography background. In Belfast, I was between lunch and dinner times at Chase’s Daily but then, dinner was waiting back home with friends and it was home-cooked and just as good.