Category Archives: Food

A Day for Flowers, a Bike Ride, and Nachos

In the United States, yesterday was Mother’s Day.

There were flowers from Mike and Shannon,

and flowers from Dee.

The day was sunny and warm, just perfect for a bike ride, our first of the season.

We rode our usual route of eight miles, and except for some slight knee pain, it was go, go, go for me. For the past few months, I have been faithfully riding my exercise bike, and yesterday I saw the benefits of this, ahem, boring workout. It’s been a long time since I have started the biking season feeling so strong and ready to go. I am very hopeful that by midsummer, we will be going on longer bike rides.

After our bike ride, we stopped at the little park by Maranacook Lake. So green and pretty this time of year.

How to end this sunny day? With Clif’s nachos, which are far better than any we can get in central Maine.

All in all, a good Mother’s Day from beginning to end.

 

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Five for Friday: When Bad Weather Comes, Eat Pie and Muffins!

Another week, another nor’easter. This mourning dove illustrates how we Mainers felt as we  cleaned the snow from our driveways and walkways.

Yet not all hope is lost. Do you see what I see when looking at this picture? Snow and branches, yes, but also little buds. Clearly, the tree thinks spring is coming even if the weather says otherwise.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit that nor’easter number four is predicted for next week. How much bad weather can one region get before it starts to feel like showing off?  I think we crossed that threshold two storms ago, and still the storms come. Right now, there is some debate as to how fierce the next nor’easter will be. It all depends on how close to land it is. May it be far out to sea, away from ships and people.

At this point, some readers might be wondering what the heck a nor’easter is and why we dread them so. Here is a definition from  AccuWeather: “[T}he main difference between a hurricane and nor’easter is the size of the wind field. According to NOAA, a wind field is the three-dimensional spatial pattern of winds…Hurricanes have a narrow field of strong winds with a concentration around the center, whereas a nor’easter’s winds are spread out…For example, a hurricane may only have a 30-mile radius of a strong wind field around the center, while a nor’easter may have a 100-mile radius of a strong wind field from the center.”

Simply put, a nor’easter is a winter hurricane with a very large wind field that can cause a lot of damage. We are right to fear them.

But let us turn our thoughts away from nor’easters and instead focus on one of my favorite subjects—food.

In the U.S., because of the way we order our dates—month and day rather than the reverse—we had pie or pi day on Wednesday, March 14. Pies are one of my favorite things to make and eat, and in honor of pi day, I made an apple pie. I bought local apples—McIntoshes—that had been perfectly stored so that they were still slightly tart. Our friend Mary Jane came over to have pie with us, and I even convinced her to take a slice home. After all, one pie for two people is a bit much. Not that we couldn’t eat it all, but we certainly shouldn’t.

Another kind of pie is pizza. Before digging into the apple pie, Mary Jane, Clif, and I went TJ’s in Monmouth to have some beautifully cooked pizza.

Then, to gild the lily, Mary Jane gave us some donut muffins, which we had for breakfast the next day. With a hint of nutmeg in the batter and the sugar and cinnamon on top, those muffins were utterly delicious. Many thanks, Mary Jane!

To conclude: The weather might be frightful, but when the food is good, somehow things don’t seem quite as bad.

 

 

 

Five for Friday: If It’s March, Then It’s Time for Ice Cream

Yesterday, March came in like the gentlest of lambs, with sunshine, blue skies, and warm temperatures. This was perfect weather for an outing we had planned with our friends Claire and Mary Jane. Fielder’s Choice, which serves delicious ice cream at great prices, opened for the season, and we wanted to be among the first to christen—with ice cream—the arrival of almost spring. As  you can see from the picture below, we weren’t the only ones there. Mainers are wild about ice cream, and we will head to an ice cream stand even if there is still snow on the ground.

And yesterday, there was still snow on the ground. Note the folded up picnic tables resting against the tree.

Since it was opening day, we all decided to go for broke and get sundaes and parfaits.

Here is Clif with his sundae.

Mary Jane with hers.

And last, but certainly not least, Claire with her parfait.

In the warm sun, we stood and ate our ice cream. (Warm for us, after a cold winter, is 50°F.) I had a hot fudge sundae with peanut butter ice cream. How good it tasted. I gulped down the ice cream the way someone dying of thirst would gulp down water. I felt a little foolish for being such a glutton, but then Mary Jane said, “I don’t know why I ate my sundae so fast.” Clif also finished his lickety-split.  Claire might have done the same, except she met an old friend she hadn’t seen in years, and while we gobbled our treats, Claire chatted with her friend.

After ice cream, there was tea around the dining room table at our house. We talked about family. We talked about movies. We talked about books.

And speaking of books…Claire, a very fine poet, has just had a book of her poetry published. We finished tea with Clif reading aloud one of the poems from her new book.

Monday’s piece for the blog will feature Claire, her new book, and a poem she has graciously allowed me to post.

In the meantime, even if the weather is bad—which it certainly is today on the East Coast—eat ice cream.

 

 

 

Five for Friday: Slumbering Under Blue

Sometimes, when we’re leaving the house, we get an au revoir from the cats—Sherlock, the orange one, and his litter mate, Ms. Watson. The dog used to add to our farewell by barking, but now that he is blind, he no longer does this, and I miss it.

On Wednesday, the cats had to say au revoir to Clif and me as we left to meet our friend Mary Jane for an early supper at TJ’s Place in Monmouth, a town right next to us. None of us had been there before, and we decided it was time to check it out.

TJ’s Place is small—basic and clean—with a bar that dominates the entrance. Not surprisingly, along with beer, a variety of cocktails are served. In Yelp, in the comments section, TJ’s was described as having “a very hometown feel,” and that about sums it up.

Mary Jane ordered fish and chips. She said they were delicious, with such a generous serving that she couldn’t finish her meal.

Clif ordered a pizza, a little different from the average pie, that featured ranch dressing, chicken, and bacon. Clif liked the pizza so much that he ate the whole thing and later paid the price by having to take baking soda and water before going to bed. Clif did allow me to have a bite, and I will admit that the pizza was tasty and perfectly cooked. In a word, scrummy.

Clif, a discerning beer drinker, said that there were no beers of distinction at TJ’s, but the IPA he chose was “good enough.”

My order—a chicken sandwich—seemed to be the weakest link. The chicken was so thin that it looked as though someone in the kitchen had stomped on it. Also, the sandwich was served with iceberg lettuce, which I am not fond of. Somehow, this type of lettuce always gives me slight indigestion. (I know. Iceberg lettuce? How could it set heavy? And yet it does.)

The server was friendly and efficient, but she never asked us if we wanted dessert or another drink. Fortunately, we didn’t want either.

As we were leaving, a musician was setting up in a corner, and a notice indicated that TJ’s often has entertainment. The restaurant was filling up, and the place had a happy chatter.

Both Clif and I would go back to TJ’s, either for lunch or an early supper, for the pizza but definitely not for the chicken sandwich.

As we left, the sun was setting in a cloudy sky. Across the street from TJ’s is a business that stores boats for the winter. How bright they look in their blue shrink-wrap.

Both Winthrop and Monmouth are towns surrounded by lakes, so much so that this area of Maine is known as the lakes region. (How I love this!) Like the rest of us, the boats are waiting for spring, for when the ice goes out, for when the weather is warmer.

In the meantime, they slumber under blue.

 

 

 

Snowy Sunday: Time for Soup and Good Conversation

Yesterday started out as a gray, snowy day. Overnight about four inches of snow fell, which meant Clif had to go out with Little Green to clear the driveway and paths.

Liam, dog of the north, checked out the backyard while Clif worked out front.

Just as Clif finished cleaning the driveway, the sun came out, turning a dull morning into a sparkling day. I have discovered that my bathroom “blind”—where I can open the window and take pictures of birds—also gives me a pleasing vantage point to take shots of the snow and the backyard. As the photos indicate, everything still looks like a winter wonderland, but that is normal for Maine in February.

Here’s a zoom look into the woods, where you can see the snow blowing off the trees.

A snowy day is also a good soup day, and the day before, I had made a white bean soup with chicken sausage, ground turkey, carrots, celery, peppers, and plenty of herbs and spices. That way, all I would need to do was heat the soup when our friend Alice Bolstridge came for lunch.

All right. I also made corn bread, salad, and apple crisp to go with the soup. But the main part of the meal was done and could simmer all morning as I put together the other parts of our lunch.

Alice, a very fine writer, lives in northern Maine, which means we don’t see her very often. But this year, to add some dash to winter, which is even longer up north than it is in central Maine, Alice decided to come to Augusta during the legislative session to acquaint herself with how our state government works. She has rented a room in a lovely old home and goes to various legislative committee meetings, which are open to the public. On occasion, she testifies. Alice even has a blog—Alice on Peace and Justice— where she describes the various sessions she has attended.

No surprise, then, that the afternoon zipped right by as we talked about politics, books, family, and a myriad of other things that cascaded from these subjects. When it was late afternoon, Alice said, “My goodness, I stayed a long time.”

“I’m so glad you did,” I replied.

“There’s no pleasure like good conversation,” Alice said.

“None at all,” I agreed.

Alice is absolutely right. Spring, summer, fall, or winter, there are few pleasures that can compete with having friends over—either for tea or for a meal—and then sit around the dining room table where we talk and eat. It’s a simple pleasure, a respite in a world that is often busy and rushed.

 

 

Five for Friday: Chinese Food and Blue, Blue Skies

This week brought us Valentine’s Day. (To my way of thinking, a holiday devoted to chocolate should be celebrated by everyone, single folks as well as couples.)  Even though I was fortunate enough to receive a box of See’s chocolates as an early Valentine’s present, I figured, why not guild the lily and go out to lunch, too? When it comes to having fun, I am not a minimalist. So off to Lucky Gardens we went, for their tasty buffet.

The week was warm, warm, warm, even making it up to 50°F on Thursday. After the cold weather we have had this winter, the air felt positively tropical. Grabbing my wee wonder of a camera, I headed into town to see how things looked by Marancook Lake.

The sky was an impossible blue, so deep, so vivid that it almost looked as though it had been computer generated.

Even though it was warm, and there was open water by the shores, there were still plenty of ice-fishing shacks on the mostly frozen lake.

On the road by the lake, there’s a little bridge, plain and nowhere near as lovely as you would find, say, in Scotland. But if you cross the road, stand on the bridge, and look toward town, you will see a pleasing tableau, a classic New England scene.

If you look closer, you will even see some ducks—mallards, I think—swimming in the open water.

We are over half-way through February, and the days are getting longer. Dusk doesn’t come until 5:30 now, a real bonus to Clif and me as we have gotten to the age where we don’t like driving when it’s dark.

I am always sorry to leave beautiful, snowy February behind. Ahead of us lies the dreary month of March, and I’ll try not to whine too much when it comes.

In the meantime…here’s to the rest of February!

 

 

A Tray Full of Treats, A Basket Full of Cat

Yesterday, on a gray, drizzly February Sunday—Oh, how Mainers hate drizzle in the winter—we had friends over for an afternoon of food and good conversation. The food was simple—snacks and pizza—which meant we could chat with our guests without too much fussing in the kitchen.

Before the Super Bowl, on Facebook , I  had discovered an idea for serving snacks. I was so taken with the way the food looked that I decided to try it for this gathering. Really, the idea couldn’t be more simple—array an assortment of snacks on a tray—and here is what I did.

To a combination of crackers, cheese, and crunchy snacks, I added homemade clam dip (upper right-hand corner) and chocolate-covered peanuts that Clif and I had dipped ourselves. It was a fun way of serving appetizers, and I plan on doing this for future gatherings.

Our friends also brought treats to share, and Dawna used a nifty basket to carry hers. Sherlock always loves anything he can climb into, and it didn’t take him long to investigate the empty basket.

After appetizers, we had Clif’s pizza.

And ice cream and pie for dessert. (Alas, I didn’t get a picture.)

It was one of those happy gatherings where six like-minded people ate and talked past dusk right into the night. When our friends were ready to go, I looked at my watch and could hardly believe what I saw—it was 9:45 p.m.

Time really does fly when you’re having fun.