Maine Roots

A blog about all things Maine


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Weekly Recipe: Beef Stroganoff

As I post this weekly recipe for beef stroganoff, I’d like to call your attention to a couple of exciting new features on the blog.  First, I’ve added a “Print” feature for each post.  Suggested by my mom, I think this is a great idea that will hopefully make it easier for you to give these (usually) delicious recipes a try.  I’ve also added a Twitter feed – I hope you all will follow me (@mainerootsgirl) – and I hope the feed also provides you with helpful information and updates about Maine news and events.  And now, let’s get down to the business of beef stroganoff.

This was my first attempt at making beef stroganoff.  From this experience, I learned that it’s a fairly simple dish and my former intimidation was uncalled for.  The below reflects something of a combination of two recipes – the first, found in Maine Home Cooking on page 98, is titled ‘Venison or Beef Stroganoff.’.  Maine Home Cooking has a number of interesting venison recipes (such as this one) that I would really like to try – hopefully this November my husband will get a deer while ‘upta camp’ so I can share them with you.  The second recipe I took pieces from is from that well-loved, favorite cookbook of mineRecipes from the Maine Kitchen – and is on page 110.  Both original recipes served 8 people, which would be overkill at our house.  I halved it to 4 servings and we enjoyed it for two nights.

Food prep...

Food prep…

You’ll need:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lb venison or beef cut into strips
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup shallots, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 8 oz. egg noodles

Sprinkle the beef (or venison) with paprika, salt, and paper.  In a large saute pan, melt half of the butter and olive oil over medium high heat and brown meat for about 1 minute.  Set the meat aside, and add the remaining butter to the pan.  Saute mushrooms until the liquid has been rendered, continuing to cook for a few minutes after this.  Add the onion and shallots and saute until soft and the mushrooms begin to brown.

Yum - browning mushrooms!

Yum – browning mushrooms!

Sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms and stir until mixed.  Add the wine, stirring and boil for 1 minute.  Add the stock, reduce the heat and simmer until slightly thickened (about 10 minutes).  Remove from the heat, stir in the sour cream, and add the meat and any accumulated juices.  Reduce the heat to low ad cook for a few minutes, until warm.  Do not boil, or the sour cream will curdle (ick!).  Correct the seasoning and serve over egg noodles.

Time to dig in!

Time to dig in!

The beef stroganoff was excellent.  Flavorful meat is important in any recipe, and I am spoiled because Nick and I buy almost all of our beef from Omaha Steaks these days.  We love their products, and the beef strips were nothing short of extraordinary in this dish.  One thing I may handle differently next time is the timing of adding the flour.  I think adding it earlier, so the mushrooms and flour brown together, could make for a better end result.  I would also use a bit less of it – it’s already a pretty thick sauce, and I felt the flour made it a bit too sticky (I added a bit more white wine and beef stock, in this case).  Regardless, this was a big hit in our house and I highly recommend giving it a try.  I hope you’ll share your results!

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Weekly Recipe: Spinach, Ricotta, and Pasta Casserole

I really, really hate letting anything go to waste.  I purposefully select recipes and “meal plan” our week to use up any ingredients in our fridge.  For example, if a recipe calls for chicken broth, I specifically seek out other recipes (that are varied enough not to bore us) that require chicken broth so that I can use it within the 10 days specified on the carton.  Same goes for any veggies, dairy products, etc. that might be living in our refrigerator.

The one area in which I have failed repeatedly to accomplish this feat is with ricotta cheese.  My husband loves lasagna, so I make it fairly frequently, but I haven’t found a use for the remaining ricotta, which inevitably goes bad before I make lasagna again.  So, imagine my surprise and delight when I stumbled across this recipe in my Maine Home Cooking cookbook.  It resides on page 218, under the ‘Fresh and Seasonal’ category, and it requires nearly the exact amount of ricotta cheese that I had left over from making lasagna late last week.  Additionally, it includes spinach, which I am coincidentally trying to eat more of (along with kale, and other dark green vegetables), because my eye doctor recommended it for my long-term eye health.  Perfection!

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 package frozen, chopped spinach or 1 lb. bagged fresh spinach (I used fresh)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, minced (optional)
  • 1 pint of ricotta cheese
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of pesto (optional)
  • 8 ounces bow tie or rotini pasta
  • 1/2 lb. of mozzarella, grated

I added both the garlic and pesto (which my mother had made herself), and I highly recommend both.  It really set the dish off.

If using fresh spinach, wash it and spin it to remove excess water, then blanch or steam it.  Squeeze the water out of the steamed or frozen spinach and chop it up.

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Steaming spinach, boiling pasta…

Saute the chopped onion and minced garlic in the olive oil until soft.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Put the ricotta cheese in a medium bowl and stir into it the spinach, onions, garlic, and pesto (or your choice of seasonings).  I should mention, I also added about a 1/3 cup of parmesan cheese – because I had it, and it’s delicious – what other reason do I need?

Next step – boil and drain the pasta and mix into the seasoned spinach and ricotta.

Mix it all together...

Mix it all together…

Brush or spray a little oil in a 2-quart baking dish.  Put in half the mixture and sprinkle half the grated mozzarella, then add the other half and top with remaining mozzarella.

Layered pasta, spinach, and cheese, pre-baking

Layered pasta, spinach, and cheese, pre-baking

Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese is melted on top and it is heated through.  Then enjoy!

Yum!

Yum!

This dish was exceptional.  I love pasta and cheese, so it wasn’t a long shot to wow me, but Nick is a little tougher.  While he (pretty much) always likes my cooking, I can tell when he really enjoys it because he says something along the lines of “wow, honey, this is really good.”  When that happens, I put it on my “make again” list.  This recipe just landed there.  I can’t recommend it highly enough!


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Fridays are for…

Fridays are for enjoying, relaxing, and welcoming the weekend. And, on the first Friday of the month, they are also for celebrating art at the First Friday Art Walk in Portland, Maine. Many thanks to my sister, Kathleen (also known as ‘Bean’) for taking the pictures you see in this post.

Kathleen and Liz

Kathleen and Liz

While I don’t feel old or wise enough to classify myself as a “patron” of the arts, I enjoy all types of art – painting, glass, music, etc. – and recognize the significant role the arts play in our self-expression and education.  Kathleen was the one to introduce me to the First Friday Art Walk in Portland, and this is exactly the type of event I hope to promote and educate others about through this blog.

Art walks are held all over the country as well as throughout the state of Maine.  Portland’s occurs monthly on the first Friday, all year round (which, as you might imagine, gets quite brisk at times), from 5pm – 8pm.  The event is a free, self-guided tour of more than 60 artistic destinations, which include local galleries, studios, museums, and alternative art venues.

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Locations all over Portland participate – from the Portland Art District (which runs from Temple Street to State Street), to the East End, to the Old Port… well, you get the picture.  In conversations with my sister, she expressed that her favorite thing about the art walk, which she attends almost every month, is that it offers a fresh experience each time – although many artists may be the same, they create something new, often theme-based, for each walk.  There is typically some type of music playing, and periodically the music is actually one of the exhibits – as was the case with the Zimbabwean Miramba musicians.

Themed art: Nest in the sky

Themed art: Nest in the sky

My mother also said the art walk provides an opportunity for artists who might not otherwise be seen, to be seen and hopefully gain recognition.  While there are galleries that regularly participate, she enjoys going into other venues that are exhibiting several artists who work exclusively in their own studios – and aren’t visible in a Portland storefront typically.  On the First Friday Art Walk in April, a steel drum band participated, taking advantage of the opportunity to fundraise and build awareness about the potential development of a small, local park.

This event is simply another demonstration of what makes Portland special.  For a little city, it packs a cultural punch.  Out of respect for the seriousness of the artists and galleries that participate, I do want to encourage you to attend only if your intent is to be a respectful and active patron of the arts – and by that I mean, don’t go only for the free wine and cheese.  Go because you enjoy the arts and have a sincere desire to be educated, and possibly challenged, by what you see and hear.

Maine coasters by Randy Hazelton

Maine coasters by Randy Hazelton

The next Art Walk is on Friday, May 3rd.  Click here for a full list of participating destinatons… and enjoy the Portland art scene! (now, if I had only posted this on a Friday…)


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Weekly Recipe: whoopie for Whoopie Pies!

You all may note that this is my second weekly recipe that requires baking – and yes, I am feeling more courageous about venturing into the dark and frightening world of baked goods.  I felt it would be very appropriate for my next baking attempt to feature a classic Maine treat – the whoopie pie.

This recipe comes from Maine Home Cooking by Sandra Oliver, and can be found on pages 70-71 under ‘Classic Downeast Dishes.’  According to her inclusion, ‘Whoopie Pie Memories,’ the whoopie pie may be descended from a Pennsylvania Amish confection called “gob,” and they were developed as the Berwick Baking Company’s answer to Drake Cake’s Devil Dogs.

You’ll need:

For the cookies / cakes:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup milk

For the filling:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup shortening or butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
The ingredients - all ready to go!

The ingredients – all ready to go!

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.  Cream together the shortening and sugr, beat in the egg and vanilla, then add the dry ingredients and milk alternately.  You will have a fairly stiff cake batter.  Drop by large spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet, leaving room for them to spread somewhat.  Bake for 10 to 15 minutes.  Allow to cool slightly before removing them to a rack.  (One great tip she included was to remove them from the oven just before the cookies are fully baked – you don’t want them to be overdone).

Very stiff batter!

Very stiff batter!

For the filling, beat the egg whites until they are fluffy, gradually adding one cup of confectioners’ sugar.  Then, spoonful by spoonful, add the shortening and the rest of the sugar to the egg white mixture until it is smooth and fluffy, and then beat in the vanilla.

Yum - the filling!

Yum – the filling!

When the cookies are cool enough to handle, make pairs of similarly sized ones and spread the filling on one half, top with the other half.  Wrap in plastic wrap or put into an airtight container.  (and enjoy!)

The end result - as I am about to devour it.

The end result – as I am about to devour it.

I enjoyed trying this recipe – it was a pleasant surprise to be competent when baking a more challenging treat (the whoopie pies were really good – verified not only by my taste buds, but my husband’s and those of some friends who joined us for dinner and dessert).  In addition, it was certainly an arm workout (when she says the batter is stiff… it is stiff), and it provided really delicious leftover batter and filling that made my Saturday afternoon delightful.

Next time, I would make my ‘large spoonfuls’ of the batter slightly smaller – I found these to be a little too big to be easily manageable.  I also ran just a little short of vanilla, so the filling wasn’t exactly right.  Regardless, it was a fun way to spend a weekend afternoon with a really rewarding ending!

Happy Friday!


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Run Maine

Those who know me, know I love to run. I love the way it makes me feel (and perhaps more importantly, the way it enables me to eat whatever I want), and so, when I picked up a special trail running issue of Runner’s World and came across a trail race that happens in southern Maine, I was compelled to write about it.

The Pineland Trail Running Festival is an annual event, held in late May, at Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, Maine.  Pineland is an extensive campus, originally founded in 1908 to serve as a home for the mentally disabled in Maine.  Today, Pineland Farms is a 5,000 acre working farm with educational and recreational opportunities.  They have a number of beautiful venues for weddings and other events, in addition to their various businesses and shops that are centered around responsible farming and animal ownership.

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The Pineland Trail Running Festival was specifically mentioned in the Runner’s World issue as the “Best Barefoot Event,” but when I visited the website, I realized it is much, much more.  The event is held on Memorial Day Weekend, Saturday, May 25th and Sunday, May 26th, and includes races ranging in distance from 5K to 50 miles.  There is a specifically barefoot 5K held on Saturday.  While barefoot running may not be for you, I strongly encourage you to give trail running and trail racing a try – and this event is a great opportunity to dive in.

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Recently, I’ve become enchanted with trail running and racing.  How could anyone not be, after trying it?  There are few more invigorating experiences than being surrounded by nature in all its glory, and having it test your strength and commitment by throwing roots, rocks, hills, and more in your path.  If I were going to be in Maine this Memorial Day Weekend, I can guarantee I would be at this event – probably trying 10K race.

In addition to the racing, there are a number of family-friendly events being held on Saturday afternoon, after the completion of the races.  A BBQ is followed by free events including a three-legged race (a personal favorite of mine), a crab crawl, and a wheel barrow race.  For the kid in all of us, there will also be face painting and a balloon artist.

While I would love to be there to participate in one of the races, I can assure you that, if you go, you will enjoy much more than just the running – the many experiences and activities offered at Pineland will draw you in – there is much more to do there than you can complete in a day.

For the full schedule of races and to register, click here.  For more opportunities to run, hike, and bike in the Maine wilderness, check out Mainetrailfinder.com.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s weekly recipe – Whoopie pies!  A classic Maine dessert that is a perfect example of why I run…


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Weekly Recipe: Libby’s Lemon Chicken

This recipe is one I’ve wanted to try since first flipping through my cookbook, Maine Home Cooking.  It spoke to me for a number of reasons: first, although its name is certainly not connected to my Aunt Libby, I can’t read the title without it calling her to mind (she passed away of breast cancer when I was 14, and was a very special woman); second, the ingredient list includes several favorites of mine (capers, white wine, and lemon); and third, I love any chicken dish that requires me to flour and fry the chicken lightly before baking in a sauce.  These inevitably seem to turn out well!

The recipe can be found on page 90 and serves 5-6.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 lbs boneless chicken
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons capers with juice
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • several stalks of parsley, finely minced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Slice each piece of boneless chicken horizontally.  Put the slices between two pieces of waxed paper and pound them gently with a mallet or rolling pin.  Toss together the flour, salt, and pepper and dip each piece in the mixture, shaking off the excess.  Put a little olive oil in a heavy skillet and make it quite hot.  Cook the chicken slices for 3-4 minutes per side, and remove them to a baking dish.

Chicken in the hot skillet

Chicken in the hot skillet

Add the capers and wine to the pan and cook until you can scrape up the little stuck-on bits.  Pour it over the chicken in the baking dish and lay the lemon slices over the chicken.

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Put the chicken in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes.  Lay the chicken on a platter, pour the juices over it, distribute the lemon slices, and sprinkle with parsley.

The lemon slices really make this dish visually appealing.

The lemon slices really make this dish visually appealing.

I made this recipe for my in-laws first night in town over Easter weekend.  As sides, I roasted red potatoes and sauteed asparagus.  The chicken was tender and flavorful (although it could have benefitted from slightly more salt and pepper!), and all in all, the meal received rave reviews.  It was also a pretty easy, straightforward recipe that gave me the opportunity to indulge in a glass of wine.

Time to enjoy!

Time to enjoy!