Maine Roots

A blog about all things Maine


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Football Monday…

It’s a Monday, and it’s been a while.  Like everyone, we had a busy holiday season and it was quite a whirlwind.  From my parents’ and sister’s Christmas visit (hooray!) to a quick New Year’s trip to Virginia Beach to celebrate with the in-laws and fun friends, we’re now back home and playing host to a potential transfer employee thinking about making the move to Macon.  I say well worth it!

Family Fun at Just Tap'd in Macon!

Family Fun at Just Tap’d in Macon!

 

Watching Clemson beat Oklahoma... Go Tigers!

Watching Clemson beat Oklahoma… Go Tigers!

Despite being a bit worn out, this is one Monday during which I won’t complain.  It’s a football Monday, after all – and my Tigers play tonight for the College Football National Championship – a game we haven’t been in since before I was born.  I’m excited and anxious and, like most Clemson fans, more than a bit insulted by all the “expert” picks.  I hope we roll right over the Tide and they all have to eat their words.  I guess we’ll see tonight!

Next time will be less holiday recap and more “Maine,” so stay tuned for an upcoming post on a popular new restaurant in Portland, The Honey Paw!


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Recipe: Apple Crisp Pie

This recipe seemed particularly appropriate to share as many readers are Christmas menu planning and prepping.  It was a hit at our Thanksgiving table, and I’m pleased to report that (courtesy of prepared crust) it was easy as well as delicious.  That’s about all I require in a baked good – because I am not a baker.

Apple pie is a classic holiday dessert, and by far my favorite treat year-round.  At some point in my childhood (my mom likely remembers exactly when), I fell in love with apple pie and began requesting it for every special occasion.  No cake for me, thanks – I’ll have my birthday candles on a pie, and so on.  Over the years, I’ve developed into a bit of a pie snob, which has led me to the unfortunate conclusion that if I like my apple pie just so, I need to make it myself – or spend a fortune at carefully-vetted local bake shops.

This decided, I bravely forged ahead and have attempted apple pie from scratch on more than one occasion, but after two minimally successful and one absolutely disastrous experience with homemade crust, I made a key concession: purchasing prepared crust.  If I loved to bake, I might find some strange pleasure in the painstaking blending of flour and (ice) cold water and the subsequent torturous rolling out of crust (and then the true frustration: attempting to peel your now beautifully flat, round crust off the countertop, only to discover that it’s basically bonded in place except for the edges, which will gleefully separate and crumble into to useless bits – not that I’m speaking from personal experience…), but see, this is just not my cup of tea.  Whiskey, on the other hand, might get me through it.

And to be completely honest, my pie snobbery does not extend to the crust.  Once baked, I can’t tell the difference between a nice, prepared crust and one made from scratch – and frankly, if I could, I think Pillsbury would be in the lead.  Not to mention, everyone around me is much happier as a result of this small adjustment (i.e. Nick).  So prepared crust it is.

I remember reading this recipe for the first time and exclaiming, “look – it actually CALLS for prepared crust!”  A dream apple pie recipe if ever there was one.  It comes from Recipes from the Maine Kitchen and is the perfect combination of a pie and a crisp – with a crisp’s crumbly, sugary topping.

This pie serves 8, and you’ll need:

  • 5-6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (I actually like to use a blend of sweet and tart apples, rather than all Granny Smith)
  • 1 prepared (!) 9-inch pie crust, unbaked
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • Cinnamon
  • Dash of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a bowl, mix the flour and sugar and blend in the softened butter, then set aside.  Place the apples in the prepared pie crust, and grate nutmeg and cinnamon over top (for the record, I pre-tossed my apples with nutmeg, cinnamon, and the dash of salt so the flavors would be throughout the pie).  I also added just a bit of almond milk, but any cream would do, if you like a slightly creamer finish.  Cover with the flour and sugar mixture – for the crisp top – and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a knife goes easily into the fruit when tested.  Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

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Don’t judge my pie or my photography… I’m not Martha Stewart.  Just know that this pie not only lived up to, but exceeded my (lofty) expectations.

Happy holidays!


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Kickstarting Winter in Maine

It may seem ironic to suggest that Maine “comes alive” at this time of year, when leaves are falling, days are growing shorter, and most are thinking about getting out the electric blanket and hibernating for winter, but that is simply how I think of it.  Spring, with its fresh buds and abundance of mud, will be welcome when it arrives, but late fall and winter bring their own energy to the state.

Winter is for the people of Maine.  Oh, you’ll find a tourist here and there as well as the New Englanders from surrounding states who come to enjoy the skiing, but primarily, it is Mainers themselves who embrace what Maine has to offer in this season.  With the advent of the holidays and winter weather comes the opening of Sunday River and Sugarloaf, ski (and snowboard) sales like the big, annual Down East Ski Club’s 53rd Annual Ski Sale, prepping of snowmobile and cross-country ski trails, and more – all focused on opportunities to enjoy the rugged beauty of the Maine outdoors, even in the colder months.

On the heels of Small Business Saturday, I felt compelled to write a post highlighting some recently published, timely resources.  Maine’s small businesses are the economic engines of the state and provide most of the employment opportunities, so let’s continue to support them through this season and the full year!

First, it is the holidays and many people will be Christmas tree shopping in the coming weeks.  I’ve posted on this topic in years past, but this year I recommend checking out this list from MaineToday.com.

If you make it to Sugarloaf this season, be sure to stop in the new Burton Signature store and say hello to my brother, Ed, in between runs.  Snowboarders rejoice – a store of their own, right on the mountain!  In other news at the Loaf, this week is Locals’ Week – depending on your residence, you ski free through Friday!

Not far from the Loaf is the Rangeley Lakes area – an outdoorsman’s dream in the Maine winter.  Featuring Saddleback Mountain, snowmobile trails, ice fishing, and cross-country ski trails, it has something for everyone (including cozy cabins if you’d rather be inside with a book).

If you’re looking for good local Christmas shopping, look no further than renowned shopping hubs in the Old Port and Freeport.  A few of my favorite stores for holiday gifts: D. Cole Jewelers (husbands, take note); LeRoux Kitchen; and the Maine Potters Market. Other fun, local ideas: head into a craft brewery and grab a gift card, tee shirt, or six-pack for the beer lover in your life; take a tip from Northeast Whitewater and give the gift of a Maine experience (not to mention, studies show people who have experiences / travel / learn new things are happier than those who have an accumulation of goods); or for your skiers and boarders, check out this gift-giving guide.

The state of Maine has something to offer everyone.  When I reflect on the many things it’s given me, I feel truly blessed.

Happy holidays!


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Clam It Up in Yarmouth

Oh boy!! Next weekend brings to you my very favorite Maine summer event, the Yarmouth Clam Festival. Kicking off on Friday, July 17th, the Festival ushers in three days of fun and food, great for all ages.

I may actually squeeze in a visit this year (which is VERY exciting), before a big 50th anniversary celebration for my aunt and uncle at the beautiful Black Point Inn. In case I don’t, let me reminisce and share a few and recommendations now:

The arts and crafts show still stands as one of the best I’ve attended. Rows of original artwork and quality home craftsmanship stretch across the North Yarmouth Academy Lawn and are well-worth a visit, Friday and Saturday 10am – 9pm and Sunday 10am – 5pm.

Ladies, I’m thinking of you when I recommend the Firefighters’ Muster (wink), held on Saturday from 1pm – 330pm on Main Street at Memorial Green.

Naturally, there’s an impressive and varied selection of clams, other fried foods, and I imagine somewhere in the mix, something ‘healthy.’

There are road races, fun runs, live music, cooking demonstrations, carnival rides, and much more. Bring the sunscreen, family, and friends and be ready for a great time!


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Cooking for Memorial Day: Maine Cookbook Recipes

With all of the excitement that Memorial Day brings (the start of summer!  Barbecues!  Long weekend!), it is important to reflect the true purpose of this holiday: it is a somber day of remembrance of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our country.  Having had a number of family members and friends who have served, the significance of this day is not lost on me, and I offer thanks and prayers to all of those whom this holiday is truly about.

I was incredibly fortunate to grow up as part of a close, large family.  This has instilled in me a love for holiday weekends because of the opportunity they present to gather together, and to enjoy good food, good drink, and good conversations with each other.  While these often potluck meals do tend to feature some high calorie, unhealthy menu items (burgers laden with cheese come to mind), in general, home cooking is much better for you than a meal eaten out.  The following sides and salads tend toward the healthy, with one final dessert recommendation that is decidedly unhealthy (but delicious!).

Here are a few possibilities for inclusion in your Memorial Day festivities:

Strawberry Spinach Salad, Maine Home Cooking, page 220
I’ve shared this salad in a weekly recipe post before, and it truly is delicious.  I recommend adding some goat cheese and going with balsamic vinegar for in the dressing – the combination of sweet, tart, and creamy really complements the wholesome spinach.

A Dilly of a Pickled Beet Salad, Dishing Up Maine, page 69
Nick loves beets, and ever since we joined our local CSA, The Dirt Farmers, I’ve been including them in our order almost weekly.  I haven’t made this one yet, but it’s a guaranteed hit in our house:

For 4 servings, you’ll need:

  • 1 1/2 lb beets of uniform size, trimmed
  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dill seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons Simple Shallot Vinaigrette (recipe below this one)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

Cook beets in a pot of salted water until tender when pierced with a sharp knife (30-45 minutes, depending on size).  Drain and allow to cool, then peel and slice into a bowl.

Bring the vinegar, water, sugar, dill seeds, and salt to a boil in a medium-sized sauce pan.  Cook, stirring until sugar is dissolved, and pour the hot liquid over the beets, stirring gently to combine.

This salad is meant to be served at room temperature or cool, so refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to one week.  Before serving, remove the beets from the pickling liquid, drizzle with vinaigrette and sprinkle with dill.  Enjoy!

Simple Shallot Vinaigrette, page 58

  •  2 shallots, minced (3 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons whole grain Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup olive oil

Whisk ingredients together, adding oil last.  Refrigerate and use as needed, up to one week.

Salad of tomato, feta, and basil with kalamata vinaigrette, Maine Summers Cookbook, page 159
Coming appropriately from my summertime cookbook, this salad looks right up my alley… easy, quick, and tasty:

For 4 servings, you’ll need:

  • 2 cups cubed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/3 cup kalamata olives, pitted and minced
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Mix the tomatoes and basil by hand in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, sugar, and olives until well blended.  Pour the oil mixture over the tomato mixture and toss to coat.  Toss in the feta cheese and serve at room temperature.

Whoopie Pies, Maine Home Cooking, page 70
The whoopie pie is a classic Maine dessert guaranteed to make you the hit of the party.  And they’re really not as hard as they look to make!  This is another recipe I’ve previously blogged about: Whoopie for Whoopie Pies

Here’s to a Memorial Day weekend of delicious food and even better company!


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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

March 17th.  How we all look forward to you each year… for corned beef and cabbage, or shepherd’s pie, or perhaps more importantly, green alcoholic beverages and ‘Kiss Me, I’m Irish’ shirts.

I, for one, have fond memories of childhood St. Patrick’s Day celebrations with green milk (and I’m sure green beer for the adults), among other green food and decor, being served at my grandmother’s house.  It’s the O’Leary in us.

For those of you in Portland, Maine, this holiday is most appropriately celebrated at Bull Feeney’s or RiRa, or another establishment with Irish roots.

For my part, we’ll be eating corned beef and cabbage tonight… and I enjoyed shepherd’s pie for lunch… now I just need a green beer!

Pretty... and pretty big!

Pretty… and pretty big!

Happy St. Patty’s Day to all!


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Into 2015…

It is hard to believe we’re forging into 2015 (already?). 2014 seems to have passed in a blur (in my mind, I envision 2014 as the Roadrunner cartoon), which is not particularly surprising when I reflect on how much changed for us throughout the last year.

There have been highs and lows and a lot of personal growth. We left Charlotte, North Carolina and the community, the special friends, we had come to have there. We arrived in Macon, Georgia and were quickly welcomed and made to feel a part of a new circle of friends. We went through all of the practical and emotional changes that go hand-in-hand with a big move while also moving into the next phase of our professional lives.

With 2014 feeling like such a flash in time, my hope for 2015 is to fully live in and appreciate every moment – perhaps then, even if it passes just as rapidly, I can experience it with fewer frantic moments.

As we all move into 2015, I wish everyone a year with more highs than lows, with quality time spent with family and friends, and resolutions you’re able to keep. Mine is to focus on the real priority in my life – the people I care for – and stay in closer touch with each and every one of them. We’ll see how I do!

Happy New Year, all!


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Handling Holiday Leftovers

Ahh, the holidays.  This joyful time of year when the air is practically tinged with excitement and merriment; when our time is filled with gatherings of friends and family; and when the tables are literally groaning under the weight of holiday ham, turkey, butter-laden vegetables, and rich desserts.

Our Thanksgiving table for two!

Our Thanksgiving table for two!

After we stagger from the table and clean up commences, my thoughts always shift to handling the leftovers.  Some solutions are readily available (leftover mashed potatoes?  Corn?  Add some ground meat and it’s shepherd’s pie to the rescue!) while others require some research.  Because I really hate letting any food go to waste, I tend to diligently search for recipes and improvise as needed until the turkey, ham, beef, and leftover sides have been incorporated into casseroles, soups, and sandwiches.  Your freezer is your best friend in this case – soon to be happily stocked with meals for future winter nights.

The following recipes were winners in our house – from various sources.  I hope they help you make the most of your Christmas leftovers!

Roast Turkey and Prosciutto Pizza
Nick and I really enjoyed this pizza after Thanksgiving.  It jazzes up turkey after a few days when the kiddos are sick of leftovers.  The downside: it doesn’t really use up that much turkey.

White Bean and Turkey Chili
A flavorful turkey chili that serves a soccer team!

Ham and Scalloped Potatoes
Uses two leftovers!  I’d happily add peas, green beans, or other leftover veggies for a well-rounded, single-dish meal.

Creamy Pasta with Ham and Asparagus
As a pasta lover, this dish was a shoo-in.

Wild Rice and Ham Chowder
I haven’t made this one, but it sounds like an ideal winter comfort food – and it uses potatoes, carrots, parsley, and other ingredients that are likely to be lingering.

On this Christmas, I hope you are celebrating with friends and family and feel surrounded by love and peace.  Happy holidays from Maine Roots… and happy holiday leftover-ing!


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Honey I’m…. Drinking Mead?

With some regularity, my husband arrives home to find me enjoying a glass of wine.  Chalk it up to work stress if you like (some days I do), or it could just be because people everywhere have enjoyed fermented beverages for a long, long time – and I’m no exception.  While the atmosphere, decor, and dress may have changed over the centuries, people like to gather together and enjoy food, drink, and entertainment.  Today we indulge in a variety of settings – a casual beer with friends at the local watering hole, or a wine tasting party at someone’s home, or checking out the hot new martini bar (although in the interest of transparency, that won’t be me – not a martini gal, I’ve discovered).  I’d encourage you all to add a mead tasting to your list of must-try alcoholic experiences.

In fact, mead is considered the ancestor of all modern fermented drinks.  Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, to see the popularity of modern day mead growing, with meaderies following rapidly in the footsteps of wineries and breweries to take advantage of the rising interest in their product and the art and science behind it.

Last year, I wrote about Far Friar’s Meadery, located in Newcastle, Maine, and this year during my visit to Maine, I had the opportunity to visit Maine Mead Works for the first time.  Located on Washington Ave in Portland, it’s easily accessible for both tourists and locals.  Founded in 2007 by owners Ben Alexander and Carly Cope, Maine Mead Works uses Maine ingredients (as much as possible) and also leverages good ol’ Mainah wisdom – that handcrafted is better than mass-produced, and quality is better than quantity (hence their small batch approach).

Maine Mead Works

We had the opportunity to try a large number of traditional and flavored meads during our visit, as well as a few sparkling versions.  Maine Mead Works emphasizes crafting a modern mead that is dry, crisp, and has a balanced finish.  Like Fat Friar’s mead, the more traditional dry and semi-sweet meads carried strong honey notes on the nose.  As I’ve become more familiar with mead, I find I can also appreciate it more.  I enjoyed the dry mead, but I liked the flavored varieties best of all.  From my perspective, honey mead creates an ideal base from which to add flavors like lavender, strawberry, and cranberry, as Maine Mead does.  I could easily envision a summer afternoon on the deck, enjoying a chilled glass of the strawberry or lavender mead, while cranberry was clearly a holiday season indulgence.

In conclusion, a visit to Maine Mead Works is highly recommended.  While we weren’t able to stay for the facility tour, I’m sure that would be well-worth experiencing as well.  You can also check out their cocktail recipes page for fun ways to mix with mead.

Happy holidays, all!


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Happy Father’s Day! And Recommended Reads

To all fathers, everywhere, Happy Father’s Day!  And to my own, thank you for teaching me the tough lessons, and the easy (read: fun) ones; thank you for showing me (with Mom’s help, of course) what family means and should be; and thank you for being someone to look up to and admire.  I love you very much, and I wish I could be in Maine celebrating with you!

Hard to believe this was almost four years ago!  There are several great ones, but I think this is my favorite wedding day picture of my dad and me. Thanks for all you do, Dad!

Hard to believe this was almost four years ago! There are several great ones, but I think this is my favorite wedding day picture of my dad and me. Thanks for all you do, Dad!

In lieu of a more formal post today, I thought I’d share a couple of articles that caught my eye in the Maine News updates that I receive via email:

First: On Bees and Big Business, this article grabbed my attention immediately because I tend to get pretty heated about the importance of (and threats to) the honey bee population.  Nick and I have (casually) discussed trying to keep a colony of our own, particularly as we start our garden.  For more information on bees, bee keeping, and honey in Maine, I highly recommend a visit to The Honey Exchange in Portland (I also wrote a post about the shop some time ago, which you can read here).

Honey samples at The Honey Exchange

Honey samples at The Honey Exchange

Second: On writing in Maine, which I found to be an amusing commentary on the author’s personal journey and writing experiences – as well as being founded on an inarguable truth: the state of Maine simply inspires the written word.  How could you live there and not be compelled to write (or find some other creative outlet)?

By the way, readers, did you know that today is also National Lobster Day?  If it were me, and I was in Maine, I’d be picking up some fresh lobster to share with Dad!

Check out this article from Fox for some unique lobster recipes ideas: http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2014/06/13/dive-into-these-spectacular-recipes-for-national-lobster-day/