Maine Roots

A blog about all things Maine

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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!


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:

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Summer Comes Again…

Dear readers, I’m hopeful that my blogging hiatus has now come to an end. As I type, I’m sitting, at long last, on our couch in our new home. It’s only new to us – it was built in 1955 and renovated in 2007 – and we love the combination of character with modern amenities. And… best of all (okay, perhaps not of all, but best for this blog)… it’s a house that is hooked up to the internet!

I’m not going to drone on about the features of our new home that I love, although there are many. I’m just thrilled to be writing to you again (and the forthcoming weekly recipes will have the benefit of being cooked on a gas stove!).

Today’s post is a brief preparation for the upcoming Memorial Day holiday weekend – now just a few days away. It’s the official start of summer in Maine (or, perhaps I should say “summer” – as any Mainah knows that late May and early June rarely qualify as summery), and the kick off to the busy tourist season.

This important holiday is a time for us to recognize and honor those who have given their lives for our freedoms and this great country.  First, let’s give thanks for our heroes and their sacrifices.

The holiday also brings with it a slew of events – from formal to informal, from public to private. Here are a few suggestions for your holiday weekend itinerary:

There are many parades to choose from in southern Maine – to list just a few: Portland’s begins at 10:30am in Longfellow Square, and concludes at Monument Square; Cape Elizabeth’s begins at 9am on Ocean House Road, and goes to the War Veterans Memorial next to Pond Cove School; Freeport begins at 9:30am at the high school and proceeds to the town park, with the ceremony at 10am; Kennebunkport also begins at 9:30am at Masonic Hall on Temple Street, ending at Dock Square; and Gorham begins at 11am at Village School, concluding at Eastern Cemetery.

Ray LaMontagne is coming to Portland on May 27th… (I’d be there, if I could be)

“Maine Days” at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens – FREE admission for Maine residents!  May 24th, 25th, and 26th. (we all know how much I love the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens…) offers up a full list of 10 things to do this weekend in Maine – check it out!

And, if your entertainment is of the private, family gathering variety, please stay tuned for a weekly recipe post coming your way tomorrow… a pulled barbecue chicken dish that is easy, delicious, and seems like a pretty darn perfect holiday dish!

Happy Memorial Day in advance!  For my holiday, I’ll once again be returning to scenic Jekyll Island, GA and enjoying the sea and the sun.

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Happy 2014!

As I say goodbye to 2013, I need to take a moment to reflect on a year that brought so much happiness and growth to my life, both personally and professionally.  Nick and I celebrated our third anniversary in October – and we continue to learn new things about each other and grow together every day.  I’ve continued to blog (although admittedly with less regularity than I’d like), and I’m writing creatively as well, which thrills and challenges me.  I’ve established my role and found my pace in a job I enjoy (most days).  And I’ve learned more about myself this year, I believe, than any year prior.  The closing months of 2013 have also brought big changes to our lives – in these first months of 2014, Nick and I will be moving further south, to Georgia, to explore a career opportunity for him as well as a new city and lifestyle.  And so this Maine girl ventures even further from her roots.

I look forward with enthusiasm to what 2014 will hold for us.  I hope it’s at least one European vacation (?)… in addition to continued happiness and growth in our personal and professional lives.  It would be lucky indeed to see the positive momentum from 2013 carry through into 2014.

With that in mind, I put together a modified, “lucky” New Year’s Day meal featuring salmon, collard greens, and roasted sweet potato.  It’s a healthy blending of foods from my Northern roots and Nick’s Southern ones.  Many New Englanders eat fish on New Year’s Day (shocker…), and I chose Alaskan salmon to reflect the courage and stamina of the fish themselves – as they battle against the current every year to spawn.  Collard greens are a traditional Southern New Year’s dish – they are green, reflecting (you guessed it) dollar bills.  As for the sweet potato, I must admit it has no symbolism that I’m aware of – but we had some, they’re good for you, and Nick loves them.  Need there be another reason?

Our 'good luck' meal certainly tasted great!

Our ‘good luck’ meal certainly tasted great!

I wish all of you the very best in 2014!  “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.  Live the life you have imagined.” – Henry David Thoreau


Milk: It Does a Doughnut Good

Title for this post is courtesy of my husband… and you’ll see the ‘why’ momentarily!

On Saturday, we had a couple of friends (fellow Clemson alums) over to watch the Clemson / Wake Forest game, and in addition to chicken, potato salad, and green salad, I decided there could be no better time to break out my shiny new doughnut pan and my gluten free Cinnamon Sugar Doughnut mix (by Stonewall Kitchen, of course) for a yummy treat.

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While I’m not attempting a gluten free diet, I know plenty of people who are – and I was pretty impressed by the array of gluten free foods offered by Stonewall Kitchen.  Stonewall Kitchen is a Maine-based company with a special story.  Founded by two friends, Jim Stott and Jonathan King, their company ideals reflect the best of Maine – a strong sense of community, wholesomeness, and the unspoiled, natural beauty of the state (per Stonewall Kitchen website).  They got their start at a local farmers’ market in 1991, selling out on their very first day.  This initial indication certainly proved true – today, several expansions and moves later, Stonewall Kitchen serves 6,000 wholesale accounts, has 11 retail Company Stores, a Cooking School, and is regularly recognized for its outstanding specialty food products.  Check out their website and try something – I’m sure you won’t be disappointed!

Recently, I ordered this doughnut mix and the Carolina Rub for my husband, to bring a bit of Maine to his new passion for smoking.

The recipe is very straightforward – in addition to the mix, you need only milk, one egg, and 2/3 cup of unsalted butter (1/3 cup for the doughnut mix, 1/3 cup for the topping).

Directions: Grease or spray a 12-well doughnut pan (I only had a six-well pan, luckily – as I got halfway through the recipe before realizing I’d… forgotten the milk.  That’s right, I managed to forget one of only three additional ingredients).  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Pour doughnut mix into a bowl, and add milk, egg (beaten), and 1/3 cup melted butter.

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Beat on medium speed about 30 seconds to combine (I did this by hand – not so fun!)

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Pipe or spoon batter into doughnut pan, filling each cup 1/2 full.  Bake 9-10 minutes, or until lightly browned.

You'd think I'd have realized at this point that something was missing...

You’d think I’d have realized at this point that something was missing…

For the topping, pour the topping mix into a small bowl.  Melt the additional 1/3 cup butter in a separate bowl.

MUCH better! Milk... it does a doughnut good.

MUCH better! Milk… it does a doughnut good.

Remove doughnuts from the pan while still warm, and gently brush each with melted butter and then roll in cinnamon sugar mixture.  Serve immediately.

I'd say the difference is pretty clear, eh?

I’d say the difference is pretty clear, eh?

The doughnuts, and even the doughnookies (as we affectionately named my ‘whoops, no milk’ doughnuts) were a hit.  Between the four of us, they were gone by the end of the night, and my friend’s husband said he actually preferred the doughnookies.  Success all around!  Thank you, Stonewall Kitchen.

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Weekly Recipe: Creole Dipping Sauce with Green Beans

I’m pretty excited about the recipe I’ll be sharing with you today.  When I came across it in The Maine Summers Cookbook, I knew it would be a perfect choice for a summer party we were going to.  It’s fun, different, and healthy – which as we all know can be a challenge to find in any ‘chips and dips’ section!  Typically, these recipes involve mayo, cream cheese, breadcrumbs, and any number of other things that make them deliciously bad for you.

In addition to its healthfulness, it sounded quick and easy (my number one recipe test), and it can be made ahead.  I was sold, and I hope you are too!

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 small garlic clove, peeled
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped scallions, white and green parts
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped celery
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 drops Tabasco sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1/4 cup tarragon vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • Dijon or other mustard
  • 1 lb. green beans
  • 1 lb. wax beans
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • Several flat-leaf parsley sprigs for garnish

To make the sauce, place the vegetable oil, garlic, scallions, celery, 1/2 teaspoon salt, cayenne, Tabasco, paprika, ketchup, vinegar, horseradish, and mustard in a blender or food processor fitted with a metal blade and process until the mixture is smooth – about one minute.  Cover and refrigerate. (Easy – check!)

To prepare the beans, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil.  Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of salt and the green and wax beans.  Cook until just tender, about 4 minutes.  Remove the beans to a colander and rinse under cold water.  Drain and pat dry, then cover and refrigerate.  Bring the beans to room temperature before serving. (Also easy!)

To serve, place the sauce in a small glass bowl on a platter and garnish with parsley sprigs.  Arrange the beans in a spoke pattern around the bowl of sauce.  This recipe makes about 2 1/2 cups of sauce, or 10 servings.

Colorful and flavorful!

Colorful and flavorful!

As you can see, I served the sauce with both green beans and celery sticks – the cookbook also recommends red and green bell pepper strips.  The sauce can be made 2-3 days ahead and the beans can be prepared one day ahead.

I really liked the flavor of the sauce – although it honestly could have been even a little spicier for me.  It had a nice ‘zing’ and satisfied my unhealthy snack cravings with veggies instead!  As the summer parties continue, I’ll keep my eyes peeled for other healthy appetizer / snack ideas to share!  Have you come across any healthy recipes that are easy to take to cookouts and parties?