Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Guide to Portland, ME

 

Found this this morning on designsponge--- an guide to Portland, Me, 2014 with its ever changing scene of the local community.

portlandmainecityguide

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Deal alert

The sun shines. The work week is almost over, today is prepared (until 11pm last night); it just needs to be served out, and then it is the Easter weekend. On cue, my lust for all things shopping returned, and emails from retailers are read again instead of deleted in batches. ---

Shopping carts at JCrew factory are filled, and left unattended with artist’s tees, short sleeve navy sweaters and new necklaces. Aldo sandals are checked out. Then my real shopping instinct is peaked by an extraordinary deal--- the Le Creuset saucepan for $79.  $79!!!! When I bought the same sauce pan in the winter, it was “on sale” for $139. This size (1 1/4 qt) is excellent for 1-2 person meals, the smallest useful le creuset, and the quality is just superb. Risottos don’t burn and come out creamy without having to constantly stir (like with stainless steel pots), pasta dishes come out great and stay warm for a long time, and, keeping the lid on, dishes cook energy-efficiently on low heat. It is my new favorite pan. I should get another one!

But, the voice of reason says, one is enough. At least, you know about the deal. (comes in flame, indigo, marseille and rosemary).

lecreuset_2

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Peekaboo..

While yesterday it felt like spring….

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Today, it was a white awakening.

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It happens. It is April. The sun is out again and melts away the snow. The clusters of black and red-bellied birds are hopping in the white lawn in front of the house, which delights V. who is looking out from her cat throne while taking a sunbath, and worries me that I might have grubby snacks under the lawn.
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Oh winter. You are not going easy this year.

On a more interesting note:
If that does not make your day, maybe this time-lapse video of Lotte from age 0 to 14 will.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Spring has arrived

My heart was pounding.

Sweaty palms.

I breathed heavily and my stomach cramped up.

Then, I walked into the bedroom, scooped up V., placed her in the un-mounted cat carrier, placed the top back on while holding her in place, and clipped the safety locks shut. She was too surprised to protest and claw her way out again. The worst was over. Then, we drove to the vet for her annual exam. I had tried other ways of getting her into the carrier before, like stuffing her in through the open top door. We were both battered and clawed after that, she won and I had to maneuver her out from under the bed again. I wonder how long the surprise scoop will work in the future.

All signs these days point to Easter and Passover. Recipes for deviled eggs abound. Or baking an easter bunny.

Painting Easter eggs.

easter_Eggs

Or crocheting little daisies for the table d├ęcor.

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The weather decided it needs a little bit more winter, and it will snow tomorrow morning. The weather in April is known to be undecided. The lawns look like lawns in California at the end of summer: sandy brown. The first mint, chives and the rhubarb are bursting through the ground. The bicycle is pumped up and waiting as new transportation to work.

Spring has officially arrived. Mostly.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Lemon Almond Teacakes (GF)

Within 2 weeks we went from 4 feet of snow and freezing temperature to summer. Yesterday it was so warm, people had lunch at the tables on the sidewalk. I put the patio chairs and the first umbrella on the deck, and cleared out the garden from winter debris, uncovering the first herbs. It was so warm it was time to wear shorts. Life is good.

For the first patio Saturday afternoon coffee and cake get-together, I made individualized GF lemon almond cakes and coconut rum cakes.

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The first cakes were inspired by the still ripening Meyer Lemons. One of them I had used in a wonderful lemon asparagus risotto. The zest would be wonderful in these tea cakes to infuse them with lemon aroma.

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The second batch was inspired by coconut and rum --- a similar base dough but with different flavors. The texture of both is wonderful fluffy, not too sweet and slightly caramelized on the outside.

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Individual cakes are a really good idea because not all of the cake might be eaten with a small group of friends, and the rest can easily be frozen for another time. Perfect to partition. The slightly bigger cakes are great to share for 2 people.

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Lemon Almond Tea Cakes (glutenfree)

special equipment: Nordic Ware Garland bundt pan

  • 5 TB softened unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup blond cane sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • juice of 1/2 Meyer lemon
  • zest of 1 organic Meyer Lemon
  • 1/3 cup almond meal
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 2/3 cup glutenfree all-purpose flour (King Arthur)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Fleur de sel

Preheat your oven at 350 F. Spray your mold generously with a baking spray.

In a bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and Fleur de sel; and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter with the sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one after the other, incorporated well before adding the second egg. Add the lemon zest, the lemon juice, and the almond milk.

Add the dry ingredients and mix until homogeneous.

Fill the molds 3/4 full and bake the teacakes for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until the toothpick inserted in the middle of the cakes comes out dry. Let cool for 10 minutes before unmolding (important! they are kind of soft and will fall apart otherwise), leaving them to completely cool on a rack.

Coconut Rum Tea Mini Cakes (glutenfree)

special equipment: Nordicware rosebud platinum pan

  • 5 TB softened unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup blond cane sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 TB almond milk
  • 3 TB dried unsweetended coconut
  • 1/4 ts of coconut extract
  • 1/4 ts of rum extract
  • 1/3 cup almond meal
  • 1/3 cup glutenfree all-purpose flour (King Arthur)
  • 1/3 cup quinoa flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Fleur de sel

Preheat your oven at 350 F. Spray your mold generously with a baking spray.

In a bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and Fleur de sel; and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter with the sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one after the other, incorporated well before adding the second egg. Add the almond milk, extracts, and coconut, and mix well.

Add the dry ingredients and mix until homogeneous.

Fill the molds 3/4 full and bake the teacakes for about 30 minutes, or until the toothpick inserted in the middle of the cakes comes out dry. Let cool for 10 minutes before unmolding (important! they are kind of soft and will fall apart otherwise), leaving them to completely cool on a rack.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Lemon, Asparagus and Saffron Risotto

It was time to harvest the Meyer Lemons. Yes, growing lemons indoors in Maine in the winter. They had turned yellow in January, and felt soft when squeezed a few weeks ago. They never developed that deep fragrance I would smell when entering the house, their sign that they are indeed ripe, but the tree developed new blossoms. So, I saw this as a sign that it was time to harvest.

Spring time and lemons --- a nice asparagus lemon saffron risotto would be the dish to make.

lemon_risotto_NL

Meyer Lemon, Asparagus and Saffron Risotto 

Makes 2 servings

  • 1/2 TB butter
  • 2 shallots or 1/2 white onion, peeled, small diced
  • 1 garlic clove, microplaned
  • 1/2 cup arborio rice
  • juice of 1/2 Meyer Lemon
  • zest of one organic (home-grown) Meyer lemon
  • 1 1/2 cups of beef stock or vegetable stock (preferred: home made)
  • about 10 stalks of frozen, grilled asparagus (or fresh asparagus)
  • pinch of saffron
  • salt to taste
  • some grated parmesan

Preparation:

1) Preheat the stock so it can be added hot, and does not bring down the temperature of the risotto. Set aside.

2) Heat the butter a heavy bottom sauce pan (Le creuset pots are perfect for the task) on medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and sweat until translucent. Add the rice, stir and ‘toast’ for 30 seconds on medium heat. Now, add the lemon juice, and stir in until well-combined. 

2) Turn down the heat to medium-low, and start ladling in 1/4-1/2 cup of hot stock to the risotto. Also add the lemon zest and the saffron. Cook the risotto gently on low heat until the liquid is evaporated (4-5 min). Once the stock is cooked off, add another 1/2 cup of hot stock. Repeat until the rice is soft and cooked (about 25 min). During the last 10 minutes, add the asparagus.


3) Add the parmesan cheese and gently stir in. Taste for saltiness and either add more parmesan or salt to taste. Serve!

lemons_NL

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Squishy

It is mild, windy and rainy. The last remaining snow has not much of a chance after this. We will add new lakes, pond and puddles, maybe, even in the neighbors’ garden. Yesterday, it was so mild and ‘warm’ that I shed my winter coat while walking across campus. A sweater was more than enough. It has been since October since I walked around without a coat.

The river was covered in ice on Sunday with a few small open holes. By Monday the wide river was ice free. Spring is catching up rapidly.

The garden is soggy and squishy. There is not a single green anything yet. Tomorrow, the sun and the blue sky are back, but today it might be time for a hearty meal, like spaghetti and meatballs (by Donna Hay).

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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Baby (bundt) cakes

Sunday. Time to kick off the shoes, make coffee, and eat a mini bundt cake baked on Saturday. Enjoy a sun bath in the French door windows.

mini_bundt_1

The sun slowly melts the snow piles in the garden, the circles around the tree become larger every day. The deck floor emerges. It will still take weeks, …..weeks until there are buds on the trees. Last summer I planted a plum tree; it shed its leaves earlier than any other tree. With hope and slight concern I wait for it to come back to life this spring, to grow and blossom. Buds. Blossoms. Plums?

mini_bundt_2

The bird feeder was empty again this morning. Hoof marks around the feeder, leading into the woods in an elegant line. Likely one of the hungry deer that decided to look for alternate food resource after a too long, too cold winter.

Time to melt some chocolate, glaze the ‘mother’ bundt cake, and to type up the recipe.

mini_bundt_3

Friday, April 4, 2014

Reading for some spring shopping

In the morning, the cats enjoy sitting on the windowsills of the east facing windows. The warm April morning sun is warming their black fur. They blink contently, smell the fresh air and listen to the birds, their eyes following them switching the branches in the barren trees. Their minds going, click-click-click, “Hello, lunch….”

I am contemplating bringing out my bike from the storage. It could use a summery update, maybe a new market basket? I cannot decide which one: this one, with some of my favorite colors, orange and plum. 

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Or, this one, looking so rustic and antique? It might be perfect for the rides to the farmers market, but how do I get my laptop in it?

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Decisions, decisions. But good decisions.

Since it is link Friday,…. Recently I discovered this natural hair conditioner, the Aussie Moist Conditioner. A few years ago, I switched from silicone-based conditioners to more natural, phthalate-free, silicone-free conditioners and low and no poo shampoos. The Tresemme natural conditioner became my go-to inexpensive conditioner. They changed their formula and so I was looking for something new. I only used the Aussie Moist Conditioner once but I am in love with how soft and shiny my (straightened and colored) hair is.

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This morning when I open my shopping emails to prep for the weekend, my browsing gaze stopped the Old Navy advertisement:Not the cardis captured my eye but the necklace. I knew that necklace…... it is a JCrew necklace. Since when does Old Navy cross advertise for JCrew?

oldnavy

(BTW, love that necklace, too).

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

And so spring comes

The weather is milder. The snow along the freeway is gone, but the snow in my garden is still 2 feet deep. But when I drive the car I open the windows and let the fresh spring air in. Transitioning. When I drove home from work last evening, a car in front of me pulled out of the parking lot. On second glimpse something registered: “They took down the roof of their BMW convertible!”. I shook my head and smiled (remembering my own LA convertible days).  "”Only in Maine.” “Only in Maine will people ride with an open convertible when it is sunny and 40F/5C outside.” That spring feeling… it can make you do wild and ridiculous things. But so understandable.

Which ridiculous spring things is spring making you do today?

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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Almond waffles (vegan, gluten-free)

It rains. It pours. The snow mountains are melting. Time for an extended Sunday breakfast with waffles, wonderful crisp almond waffles (which are also vegan and gluten-free). 

waffles_3

Normally, I make the waffles with all-purpose flour; this time I used the King Arthur all-purpose gluten-free flour, and they came out just as crisp and tender. In the second half of the batter, I added raspberries and blueberries.

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My regret? the lack of whipped cream in my fridge.

waffles_4

Vegan Chia Waffles (makes 6 waffles)

  • 1 cup all-purpose glutenfree flour (recommended: King Arthur Flour)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2TB almond meal
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 ts almond extract
  • 1/2 ts liquid stevia (or to taste)
  • optional: frozen raspberry pieces

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl, and mix the wet ingredients in another bowl. Combine both types of ingredients and mix with a whisk until the waffle dough is without lumps.
Preheat waffle iron (typically, a green light goes on). Spray with nonstick spray (or wipe down or brush with some almond oil). Cook waffles according to the waffle maker's instructions, which usually means putting about 1/4 cup batter on the iron, closing, and waiting for a light to go out. I baked mine longer than the light signal (about 4 min altogether so that they are on the crispy side).
Make 6 waffles using 1/4 cup of waffle dough. 1 waffle, 90kcal.

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waffles_7

Friday, March 28, 2014

Unfrozen

It is raining today. But no one is complaining. It is rain. Not snow. For the first time in 4 months.

The ice caps are melting. The snow mountains in the parking lots are shrinking. The cars are cleaned off their winter crud and salt crust. It will rain for a few weeks, on and off, which will propel Maine into mud season, one of the lesser known seasons. The season when melted snow meets thawing grounds and rivers double in size. Other parts of the country see cherry blossoms and call it spring. We call it thawing out.

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This morning I had another try at ‘cake in a cup’, but this time baked, and with the addition of an egg white for the ‘rise’ factor. It was fluffy and crisp, a non-spongy texture, but the taste of the egg was too pronounced.It will take another try, with a flax egg.

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The weekend is ahead. What could be better than a little reprive from reality?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The storm that never was

I went to bed last night with a sense of relief that today would be a snow day; I would get some work done at home. When I woke up at 7am I looked outside: no snow on the ground and not a single snowflake in the air. The weather report predicted the snow would come at 12pm.

I dragged my feet, and baked several variations of ‘cake in a cup’.

cake_in_cup_LR

I concluded they need to be baked; 90 sec of microwave produces a sponge-like cake.Not the right fluffy textures.

We were visited by a hungry neighbor.

deer

By 12pm there was still not anymore snow, no blinding blizzard, just blindingly cold wind, and so I drove to work for an afternoon of meetings. These little fuzzies stayed home in the warm.

les_kitty

Monday, March 24, 2014

Two more letters to go

There is only one place more popular than church in Maine on a Sunday: the self-serve frozen yogurt shop. The line wraps around tables and eating customers back to the door and people of all ages patiently wait for a cup of the frozen, sweet Sunday treat. Sunday felt like a true spring day. Blindingly bright sunshine, blue sky, puddles of water running underneath the ice sheets that frame the walk ways. Kids, dogs, spouses were packed up, and taken on a Sunday walk. Even I bundled up and walked to town. The weather was too good to pass up on the extra portion of light and fresh air.

The sun still shines on this Monday morning. A bright, powerful light that wakes up nature. The temperatures are icy, 4F/-15C. It will be a short week; Wednesday will be wiped out by a snow storm and make everyone stay at home and life stop. Empty stores, empty streets, school canceled.

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It is just us with this new half meter of snow, and Nova Scotia. The meteorologists are on the the letter “X” for winter storms. Two more letters to go.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Maple Sunday

Yesterday, I realized that each year the first 2 months of the year are just a blur. Discounted, just to be gotten over with, struggled through, unabatedly pining for spring and summer. A gray, dark transition phase. This year it is the first 3 months. On the other hand, the first three months of 2014 already passed? A quarter of the year? These are three months of my life I never get back. They are too precious to just remember I wanted them to be over with so I could enjoy sunshine and summer.
This changed my attitude. “This is my life. I never get this time back. I better make something better out of it and enjoy it, appreciate it.” No more wanting the days to be gone for the better ones to come. This is my life! Now. Here. Today.

Today is also Maine Maple Sunday. A day when the many sugar houses in Maine open their doors to show how they cooked down maple sap to maple syrup, entertain the kids, make cotton candy for the big kids and serve maple syrup over waffles and ice cream. There is a sweet sap to life, even in winter.

Or, as Kacey Musgraves says "Follow your arrow. .... you got only so many trips around the sun. Live your life."

Her emphasis is on 'your', mine is on 'life'.
maple_sunday