Winter Squash Soup for All Seasons

Ingredients:

  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 3 ripe pears, peeled and sliced
  • 1 orange – zest and juice
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon
  • Coconut milk (optional)

Directions:

  • Saute onions in butter in large pot till clear
  • Add diced squash and saute 10 – 15 minutes more
  • Add stock, pears, orange juice, orange zest and simmer until squash is soft – 1/2 hour or more.
  • Blend in blender or use stick blender until creamy
  • Add spices (and optional coconut milk if desired)
  • Serve hot or cold with sprinkle of cinnamon on top

This recipe was originally provided by Natalie Dunlap and published in “Seasoned with Love” – recipes from Maine Foster Grandparents.

Chicken Pickle

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 1 1/2 pound boneless chicken (I prefer thighs)
  • 15 chopped garlic cloves
  • 3-4 dry red chilies (may use red pepper flakes)
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic paste
  • 1 tablespoon red chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 3 tablespoons coriander powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 30 fresh curry leaves (dried is OK if you don’t have fresh)
  • 1 1/2 – 2 tablespoon salt
  • 2 lemons (squeezed)
  • Oil (3 cups)

Directions:

  • Add chopped chicken, 1/4 tablespoon salt, 1/4 tablespoon turmeric power, 1/4 tablespoon chili powder in a bowl and mix well
  • In a large, heavy pot add 2 cups oil and heat on high flame (~ 5 minutes)
  • Add chicken, reduce heat to medium, and cook for 25 minutes or more (keep stirring – you want to cook out as much of the moisture as possible)
  • In another pot, heat 1 cup oil and add cumin seeds, mustard seeds, turmeric powder, curry leaves, crushed garlic and dry red chilis. Saute for a minute – keep flame on low.
  • Add the garam masala, coriander powder, cumin powder, chili powder, salt and mix well
  • Add the drained deep-fried chicken – mix well for 10 minutes
  • Add lemon juice and stir well
  • Turn off heat to let it cool
  • Store in an airtight container and refrigerate

If you keep this refrigerated, it should last up to two months.  The key is to remove all moisture (other than the lemon juice)

I owe this recipe to Mounika Gaddam – who I had the pleasure of working with and shared this recipe (after bringing in a sample that everyone loved) – Thank you Mounika!

Chase Reserve

Chase Reserve is a meander through the woods and across a beaver dam in a boggy area.  Located right on the border of Freeport and Brunswick – it’s not too strenuous – fairly level – roughly 1 1/2 hours if you go to the end.

Chase Reserve map
Path Map

After the Walk

We already have a Freeport and a Brunswick restaurant listed (Chase Reserve is right on the border between Brunswick and Freeport) … so we thought this an opportunity to pitch a summertime favorite – the Harraseeket Lunch and Lobster Company.  Admittedly this is only for the summer – but it’s a stand-by for us for fried clams or steamed lobster.

Home Made Yoghurt

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon 2% milk (or whatever percentage you like) – the amount of milk is up to you and the size of the pot.
  • Starter yoghurt (4 – 8 oz) – your favorite brand

Necessary equipment:

  • Digital yoghurt thermometer
  • Double boiler (I use a pot inside a larger pot)
  • Electric heating pad
  • Bath towel
  • Whisk
  • Spoon

Directions:

  • double_boiler1Add milk in smaller pot
  • Put smaller pot in larger pot which has enough water so it doesn’t spill over into the smaller pot when you put it in.  I put a small spacer under the smaller pot.
  • Put larger pot (with smaller pot in it) on stove
  • Heat on high until thermometer in milk registers 185 degrees F You will need to stir this fairly frequently
  • thermo_185At this point I lower the heat so I can maintain the 185 temperature, and will keep it at 185 for an additional 30 minutes. I find that the more you do this, the more it contributes to the thickness of the final product (Note: if you plan to strain and make greek yoghurt [below], you do not need to do the additional 30 minutes)
  • Transfer smaller pot and thermometer to your sink (full of cold water)
  • cool_downStir regularly until temperature drops to 110 degrees
  • Remover pot from sink.
  • Add your starter yoghurt and whisk until it is completely blended
  • Cover pot with lid
  • On countertop lay out the bath towel (any reasonably large towel will do)
  • towel_padPlace heating pad on top of towel
  • Put pot on top of heating pad
  • Wrap the towel/heating pad so the towel completely surrounds the pot – avoid any gaps, etc.
  • Plug heating pad in. The heating pad I have has three settings – I have it at the middle setting.
  • Leave for 7 hours
  • Remove from towel/heating pad
  • pot_on_towelDrain off any water (whey) from the yoghurt – being careful not to pour off your yoghurt! (the whey can be saved for baking or other recipes if you wish)
  • Whisk until completely smooth
  • Pour off into containers (I use old 1 quart plastic yoghurt containers and/or 1 quart glass mason jars.
  • (If you added extra milk above – pour this into a small separate container for your next batches starter)
  • pot_wrappedRefrigerate yoghurt

Note: The extra heating time mentioned in the directions seems to contribute greatly to the thickness. Yoghurt creates lactic acid as a by-product, which gives the yoghurt a “tang”. The longer you leave it in the towel, the “tangier” the result. I’ve left it in the towel for longer periods of time, but 7 hours seems to work well.

I have seen directions where instead of heating pad/towel, you place the yogurt in open containers in a covered styrofoam picnic container with either a light bulb or jars of boiled water – the heating pad/towel works for me.  Note that you can ramp this up in volume – you’re only restricted by the size of your double boiler.

I usually sweeten the yoghurt with maple syrup in single servings when I eat it.

Greek Yoghurt

Yoghurt strainer
Yoghurt Strainer

Greek yoghurt is not a particular yoghurt culture – it’s yoghurt which is strained to make it thicker.  I have seen instructions which involve using fine cheesecloth to strain the yoghurt – but have found that that’s messy, and leaves a lot of yoghurt left embedded in the cheesecloth.  I found a yoghurt strainer – runs about $19 dollars at Amazon.  You put two quarts of yoghurt into the strainer at a time – I allow it to strain overnight.  Then using a soft rubber spatula you remove the yoghurt into your containers.  You can allow it to strain longer – resulting in a very thick consistency – good for spreads/dips.

Balsamic Dressing

Ingredients

  • 1 Tsp Finely minced garlic cloves
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 4 Tbsp balsamic vinegar (white or red
  • pinch sea salt
  • pinch freshly ground pepper
  • 3 leaves (1 1/2 Tbsp finely minced fresh sweet basil
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Directions

  • Mix well everything but olive oil
  • While stirring constantly, add olive oil

Note: You can use either white or red balsamic vinegar. The white tends to be a little less “robust” than the red. The proportions can be varied to taste.

Hot & Sour Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tblsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 lb chicken or pork, cut into matchsticks (optional)
  • 4 – 8 cups water
  • Vegetable bouillon
  • 1 oz Cloud ears (also known as wood ear or tree ear – chinese fungus) soaked in warm water 1/2 hour in advance
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced mushrooms (button, crimini, oyster – your choice)
  • 1 bunch scallions – base cut into thin rounds, tops cut into matchsticks
  • 1 Lb firm tofu cut into 1/2″ X 2″ sticks
  • 2 Tblsp corn starch dissolved in 2 Tblsp water
  • 1/4 cup tamari / soy sauce
  • 2 Tblsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup minced peeled broccoli stalks (optional)
  • 2 eggs beaten

Directions:

  • Saute minced garlic in small amount of cooking oil (peanut or canola oil) till just beginning to brown
  • Add chicken or pork matchsticks and saute until cooked(optional)
  • Add water and bouillon (this may be heated and mixed in advance)
  • Add tamari/soy
  • Add broccoli (optional)
  • Bring to boil
  • While stirring, slowly add corn starch mixture
  • Allow to thicken
  • Add cloud ears, mushrooms, tofu
  • Bring back to light boil
  • Add frozen peas
  • Bring to boil, and while stirring, add egg
  • Immediately before serving, add vinegar, toasted sesame oil, white pepper and scallions

Note: You can vary the amounts of any ingredient according to taste; be sure to add enough bouillon to make a reasonably strong stock. If serving leftovers, add a small amount of white vinegar immediately before serving. White pepper is what gives it the “hot” of hot and sour – you can vary this based on how hot you want it. I would not recommend substituting black pepper for the white.

Morse Mountain (and what they don’t tell you)

The real secret to Morse Mountain (in Phippsburg, Maine) is not the mountain – it’s the beach! It (Seawall Beach) is over a mile of beautiful sandy beach – the beach is on the south side of the Morse River which seperates it from Popham Beach – equally beautiful – but more crowded (and not free) The Maine Geological Survey lists it as one of Maine’s “finest beaches”.

Directions

Follow Route 209 South for 11.6 miles. Where Route 209 turns sharply left to Popham Beach, continue straight ahead on Route 216 for .4 mile.

You will see NO PARKING signs on both sides of the road as you approach the entrance to Morse Mountain. Turn left on Morse Mountain Road.

Drive about 350 feet to the entrance of the parking lot on the left. In the summer, there is a gatekeeper and booth at this lot. When the lot is full, no more vehicles are permitted to enter until parked vehicles leave. Vehicles may not park on Morse Mountain Road or on Route 216.

(Note – when we visited on 7/30 there was no attendant)

The hike to the beach took us 40 minutes at a leisurely pace. The mountain is a shorter distance (but not by much)

NOTE: There are NO facilites, dogs are not allowed at any time, and I’d recommend bug spray for the walk.

You can also rent houses (including one in the winter) within the preserve.

The preserve is maintained by Bates College
Google Map

After the Hike

Our favorite is the Lobster House in Phippsburg.  (Just continue on R 209 beyond where you turned to park for Morse mountain.  This is not James Beard country – but it’s good plain old fashioned seafood etc. at reasonable prices.

“The Rez” in Hallowell

“The Rez” (for the Reservoir) is a public recreation area for Hallowell, and includes a swimming hole, playing field, picnic tables, rest facilites, but also connects to miles of trails which run through the woods, around a quarry pond, connecting to snowmobile trails, etc. It’s so close to home (for us) that I often don’t think of it as a “destination” for hiking at all.

View Larger Map

After the walk

There’s so many choices in the area that I can’t pick just one. Slates, a Hallowell institution, always has excellent food – you can’t go wrong. Saturday and Sunday brunch is great. A little further down the road (in Gardiner to be precise) is the A1 Diner (Don’t be fooled by their website – which needs a little work). A classic diner from the 50’s, the food is anything but – my favorite is the Greek salad with Calamari – but you can get anything from Macaroni and cheese to Morracan stew, etc.

Wolf’s Neck Woods State Park

Wolf’s Neck Woods has been one of our stand-by’s – you can get more information than I want to repeat at the Department of Conseration’s website (where there are listing on all State parks – some of which I will be reviewing for walks later) Wolf’s Neck has extensive well groomed foot trails, picnic areas, restrooms and more. It’s trails meander through the woods, or along the rocky coast. There is a fee – $3.00 in-state, 4.50 out of state and 1.50 senior.

And after the walk…

The Harraseeket Inn – Broad Arrow Tavern provides great fare at reasonable prices. Be careful of your timing – there can be a waiting list if you arrive at peak hours.

Bowdoin’s Coastal Studies Center

bowdoin-coastal-studiesWe read an article in the KJ about Bowdoin’s Coastal Studies Center and decided to check it out. It’s on Orr’s Island, near where we first lived when we came to Maine. We spent and hour and forty-five minutes following one of the trails. There were several other trails left for another day. You could probably spend several more hours investigating all the trails. It’s 118 acres and 2.5 miles of coastline. Trails tend to run along the shoreline, with many spots where you can sit and rest. Most trails were groomed; a few had wet spots (we first walked this in March).

Rating: 4 of 5

Directions

  • From Route 1 in Brunswick take Route 24 S for 8 miles
  • Cross bridge to Orr’s Island and continue for another 2 miles
  • Take Right on Bayview Road and follow it for 1 mile to parking area.

And after the walk…

A favorite of ours is the Frontier Restaurant in the old Fort Andros mill building by the Brunswick/Topsham bridge.  If your looking for an evening meal another option is the Tao Restaurant in Brunswick.  A little pricier but remarkable food.