sustainable stories and recipes from midcoast Maine

a day in freedom

One bar of service on your phone, a light breeze that cuts through the sun (and makes you realize that no sunscreen and a tank top weren’t the best choices for wear) and fields of green. That’s Freedom, a nice break from town, playing with the peas and caring for the carrots.

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quality time with the peas

quality time with the peas

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farm dinner for a hungry belly: spinach-potato hash with a fried duck egg

farm dinner for a hungry belly: spinach-potato hash with a fried duck egg

how does your garden grow?

Growing up, I was surrounded by gardens. My grandfather had an extensive flower and vegetable garden that spanned the backyard of their Cape Cod home. I can pick pounds of green beans easily and have known what kohlrabi is for years, though it’s a vegetable gaining more traction now.

My dad has also liked “playing in the dirt” and has always planted my favorites from lettuce to swiss chard to herbs for my mom.

Years later, I planted my first garden.

swiss chard

{I’ve also been volunteering on a farm, picking and weeding much to my mom’s dismay as I used to complain about picking beans on the Cape and have never helped her weed at home. I use the excuse that I was too young to appreciate what they were doing and while it’s fair, a 7-year old would rather be at the beach than in the garden, it’s still warrants a head shake and post later on.}

I bought seeds from the Belfast Co-op soon after we moved in April with my sights set on having raised beds inside our apartment under the windows. I was going to fill wine boxes with a layer of rock for drainage before covering it with potting soil and planting seeds. The only problem is that I also need to track down a drill to drill holes on the bottom and find a plastic tray to put underneath so water would easily flow.

Then time got away and six weeks later, I still hadn’t found a drill and a bag of potting soil was still leaning against the side of the house. Whoops!

Underneath our mailbox and in between our stoop and our next door neighbor’s, there was a bed, or at least what looked like a bed previously if it wasn’t overgrown with weeds. After a brief email to my landlord, I was given the “ok” to rip out all of the weeds and use it as my personal garden.

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After 6 hours and 3 full trash bags full of weeds, I transformed the above picture to the below.

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From left to right, there are lettuce seedlings, 2 rows of lettuce seeds, spinach seeds (top), swiss chard seedlings (middle), kale seeds (bottom), parsley seeds, basil seeds and basil seedings. In a little over a month, we could be harvesting our own lettuce. So exciting!

I foresee a lot of salads, green smoothies and pesto in my future! What would you make with those ingredients?

cooking on a whim: pistachio lemon vinaigrette

I’m usually a very methodical person. I get it from my father who used to quiz me on my multiplication tables as soon as he could and who also taught me my first computer program- Excel. I don’t lie.

When I first went to college, I was a pre-physical therapy major, burying my books into general chemistry and physiology to learn why the body does certain things to keep it alive and well. It’s fascinating.

It should come to no surprise then when I got into food, health and how food affects your body AND the science and math behind baking and pastry have where I’ve spent most of my time. I love getting lost in sugars, flours and chocolate. Whether it’s organic cane sugar to date paste, I light up when I can play in sweetness.

The recipe below is the antithesis of everything I just spoke about.

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This was the result of me cooking on a whim. Wanting a lighter and brighter vinaigrette for my salad, I swapped my usual apple cider vinegar for lemon juice. Olive oil, salt and pepper are a must, but something caught the corner of my eye- pistachios. I love pistachios, even though I forget about them consistently, so I through some into my mortar and starting grinding with the pestle. A sprig of lemon balm from the farmer’s market brought out the lemon flavor while adding a savory herb undertone. Basil or mint would be lovely too; however, if you use mint, I suggest taking out the garlic clove.

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I didn’t write a complete recipe below because honestly, I don’t have one. If you’d like it thinner, add more olive oil. Thicker? A touch more honey would help or grind the nuts longer. More zing? Add more lemon or garlic. Find your happy medium and let those greens sing.

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Pistachio-Lemon Vinaigrette

serves 1 large salad 

In a small food processor, pulse the juice of 1/2 lemon, a handful of pistachios, 1 garlic clove and a touch of honey until the nuts and garlic are in between being smooth and chunky. Think pesto consistency. Add a drizzle of olive oil and pulse to blend the ingredients. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Depending on the consistency, play around like stated above, but make sure to pulse after each addition to keep the vinaigrette from breaking.

Lately, I’ve been buying large, beautiful heads of red leaf lettuce from my farmer’s market. I love the crunchy from the stem and the soft, frill from the outer leaves, but use your favorite local green.

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believe

Dear Daddy,

I wish I could put into words what you mean to me, but it would either take pages and pages or nothing at all- you know how us Chamberlains aren’t the best at speaking emotions.

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I’ve always been a mini-you. Much to mom’s dismay when we say the same thing at the same time miles away, you’ve known how I feel about things without me say them. Your frustrations are often mine unsaid.

You’ve been my cheerleader coming to every recital, every competition and taste testing every recipe for better or worse.

You’ve grounded me with numbers. I hate your accounting degree sometimes. But you’ve also given me room to dream. To let me think I can spread my wings, fly and if I happen to catch a bump or a fall, it’s ok.

You’ve let me believe. In myself. Something many people only wish to do in their life and while I’m still not there 100%, your faith and the charm I keep, make me strive to believe every day.

You’ve been my “pal.”

You’ve been my friend.

You are the standard I keep on the other men in my life. The loyalty, love and respect you have with mom that I hope for one day.

I love you.

love,

your little girl

insidepie

…and don’t worry, I know I owe you a MAINE blueberry pie this summer ;)

life lessons from a restaurant kitchen

The food industry is a funny one. I’m sure there are nuances to any industry- the things that people expect from you that in reality don’t happen- but since I’ve only worked with food, I’m just going to share a few things I’ve learned from working in food events and more recently, in the restaurant kitchen.

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Don’t take anything personally. If you need help, ask for it and then keep going.

My first job in a restaurant was on the pastry line of Gramercy Tavern. Chef Nancy has been one of the most influential chefs in my life to this day and a lot of my restaurant ethic I learned from her. That said, it was also one of the most stressful positions I’ve ever had too. I always felt like I had things under control at the beginning of service and then we’d get a huge rush. We’d be in the weeds and THAT’S when she came upstairs to the line, seeing me frantic and thinking, why can’t you ever me work when I’m collected and doing well. That’s when she told me a secret. “{The GM} calls me and tells me you girls are about to get slammed. I come to help. I already know you need me.”

Sometimes you just need help. Sometimes you just need to ask for it. Sometimes it’s not your fault when things are going astray. When pressure’s high or intense, let people’s emotions make you strive for the same greatness you yourself wants too. Take what they say, put your head down, work and deliver. It’s not you, it’s the situation and when the night ends, you’ll sleep well :)

Life will always send you curve balls and most of the time, it’s when you think you have everything figured out. The one thing I’ve learned most recently is to just keep going. It’ll will all work out ok if you do!

Build a thick skin… literally.

This piggybacks to the above statement, but not to an extent. Building a thicker skin and taking criticism when it’s constructive and leaving everything else to the side is a good thing. It’s something we should do in any situation because we can learn something from everyone we meet. That said, in the kitchen, you also need a thicker skin…literally.

Burns, cuts, bruises. They come from working in a kitchen where it’s just because of speed, a slip or an accident. When I was in culinary school, I got my first set of tiger strips (when you have two parallel burns) on my left forearm from bumping the top of an oven rack taking a sheet pan out. When they healed, a part of me actually sad to see they go as if an honor was taken. What that honor was exactly I’m not sure, but that’s how it felt.

I regained that honor a few weeks ago when I got another pair of stripes on my inner right forearm. Those among a tap of a serrated knife, a tap of a blade, the falling of a heavy cutting board on the toes… yup, just another day in the kitchen.

 

radishes

Don’t waste anyone’s time. 

There’s a certain speed that’s needed when you work in a restaurant. It’s always about figuring out how to be faster, more efficient and do not only 7 things at a time, but 8. It’s a juggle, and a life lesson in time management. Translating into the real world, no one likes to waste time. There are times for lazy days, leisurely days where you spend time with a loved one and just enjoy. However, in business, lazy doesn’t have a place and if you wouldn’t want someone to treat you with less respect, with less care, don’t treat them as such either.

Love what you do (and if you don’t change it)!

Whether you’re working in NYC or a vacation town in Maine, the restaurant industry doesn’t leave you with much of a personal life. You may work 8 hours one day and then you may work 16 the next. Maybe it’s a string of 10 or 12 hour days.

The fact is that 40 hour weeks are abnormal while 60 hour weeks are the norm. When this happens, passion and love is what gets you through. You don’t put yourself through those long days, without seeing your friends and family, if you don’t love what you’re doing and what you’re working towards.

I was a very competitive dancer growing up dancing 20+ hours a week while maintaining straight A’s in school. Overachiever at heart, I loved every minute of what I was doing… until I burned out. When the passion became a chore, it showed that I needed something else. From one art to another, I changed my path and while I miss dance in some way, I get my dance conditioning in other ways. (That said, Wyndee, I’m starting to take a dance class up here. I miss it too much ;) )

We all have passions and need to go after them, but through life, they may change and that’s ok. As long as you’re honest with yourself, your loved ones and the life you want, you can never go wrong.

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Stay in the moment.

As a constant planner, I’m always two steps ahead in life with a plan A, B and C. In parts of my life, like managing 140 chefs, it’s been successful. In other parts, I’ve been thinking more about the potential of a task than the one at hand. While doing that, the current lesson or moment is lost and sometimes that’s the experience you need the most. This is a never ending lesson I’m going to have in my life, I know that for sure, but recently, as I’ve taken each day as the day itself, it’s been more enjoyable and the happiness is in the now, not in the maybes. We only have this life so we might as well take it for the good and bad it brings us.

What are some life lessons you’ve learned from your current job?

molten chocolate cake

It comes to no surprise that many special days here involve food and of my favorites, there is dessert and that dessert is chocolate. On a recent day off I decided that I wanted to make my own chocolate because why not? I bought cacao solids and cacao butter. I planned the percentage I wanted. I weighed and melted them over a double boiler. I added maple syrup and vanilla to the mixture off the heat, mixed carefully and poured it onto a lined cookie sheet.

Then I waited.

Not too long thankfully.

Until I had this…

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Homemade chocolate chips! I made chocolate chips!!!

I hate to tell you that this recipe isn’t for these chips. They were very good and I enjoyed every minute I spent taste testing them, but before writing a recipe or technique for them, I need to research a little more. Tough job.

That said, I did make something lovely with my first creamy batch. Something I’ve been meaning to write about for maybe 3 weeks now, but forgot until friends on instagram reminded me I still owed the recipe. Sorry!

Slightly puffed with fudgy sides and a creamy center, we all know molten chocolate cake as that one dessert that all restaurants have that isn’t very good. This is good… and it’s gooey and something meant to be shared on a special day with friends all around dipping their spoons into it, laughing and chatting.

Special.

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Molten Chocolate Cake

serves 8

Preheat your oven to 450F. Grease an 8″ square pan with softened butter. Set aside.

Over a double boiler, melt 10 ounces of your favorite 70-75% chocolate with 1 cup butter*. While that mixture is melting, whisk together 4 eggs, 4 egg yolks and 1/2 cup organic cane sugar or coconut sugar until thick and light in color. Slowly pour the melted chocolate mixture into the egg mixture, continuing to whisk until fully incorporated. Add 1 tablespoon whole grain flour** and a pinch of salt. Stir to combine.

At this point, you can pour the batter into your prepared pan or you’re welcome to add flavorings. One tablespoon vanilla extract, two teaspoons of mint extract or two teaspoons of almond extract are all lovely. Shredded coconut or toasted pecans sprinkled on top are also nice. They will sink a little, which gives a nice surprise and crunch, but just should be noted.

Bake for 9-10 minutes, or just until it pulls away from the side ever-so-slightly. When I mean ever-so-slightly, I mean it! You should only see a whisper between the pan and chocolate. Don’t overbake!

Cool for 5 minutes before gathering around and dipping spoons. Whipped cream and/or ice cream on the side in not necessary, but preferred.

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Note: This can also be made in 8- 4 oz ramekins if you’d like to create a more personalized dessert. For these, lower the cooking time to 6-7 minutes.

*For a dairy free version, use 3/4 cup melted coconut oil in place of the butter.

**For a gluten free version, use 1 heaping tablespoon of almond meal, oat flour, buckwheat flour, etc.

baked multigrains with rhubarb and blueberries

Play. It’s not a word that’s used to describe activities that we participate in after a certain age. It’s work. It’s a hobby. It’s not play.

But play is where the creativity comes out. Where you can explore freely. Possibly falling, but ever hurting yourself. Just moving.

I had a conversation with a friend about this yesterday, about honoring yourself and allowing yourself to play in life, whether it’s through a job or with your hobbies. Luckily, one way or another, I get to play every day with food.

Baking gives me a greater sense of play as I toss flour and sugar around, finding my inner child as I taste and mix. Maybe it’s because it’s where I got started in the industry or because it excites my inner science nerd.

Whatever it is, whenever the sun in shining, the windows are open, music drifts in the background and I’m mixing something that needs to be put into the oven in precisely 3 seconds… that’s my playground.

rhubarb

With this recipe, I want you to play too. The concept came from Ashley who recently posted a recipe for a baked oatmeal. Her recipes are always spot on and as I was reading it, rain was pouring outside, a blanket taking the chill away as the lone local fruit found here laid touchless in a basket on the counter. Soothing the toe that was covered in the blankets and the toe pushing for summer to arrive, this recipe is a perfect spring welcome.

With a higher fat content than other grains, oats are an amazing immune builder- stabilizing blood sugar, regulating the thyroid and soothing the nervous and digestive systems. Adding to that, oats are protein rich and have a close amino acid profile to wheat, making it a great substitute for people watching or avoiding gluten.

Here’s where I played. I love oats. The creaminess of the rolled variety and the chew from the steel cut. I also love other whole grains as there are so many on the market now. Ball jars line my counter from buckwheat to wheatberries- no joke- but my favorite is millet.

Most known in the United States as an ingredient in bird food, millet is the easiest grain to digest. It tops oats and wheat in it’s amino profile with a strong iron content and a host of b-vitamins to boot. The only grain that’s alkalizing to the body, millet is my go-to grain for easy nutrition and can be dressed from sweet (drizzled with honey and cinnamon) to savory (tossed with lemon juice, olive oil, herbs and vegetables).

In this recipe, I added millet to the bake. It adds a slight crunch in between the creay which I loved, but play with YOUR favorite grains. Buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth would all be great here. The only “rule” is to choose grains with a similar cooking time to prevent overcooking one and overcooking otheres. That combination is never pleasant!

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Baked Multigrains with Rhubarb and Blueberries

inspired by Edible Perspective and Purely Elizabeth granola

Preheat your oven to 350F and grease a 9×13 pan with coconut oil. In a bowl, toss to combine 3 cups chopped rhubarb (about  medium stalks), 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, 3 tablespoons maple syrup, 2 tablespoons flax meal, chia seeds or any whole grain flour and a squeeze of lemon. Set aside.

In another bowl mix 1 1/2 cups rolled oats, 1/2 cup steel cut oats, 1/2 cup millet, 1/4 cup amaranth or quinoa and 1/4 cup flax meal. Mix with your fingers and look at it. Do you want more creamy from the oats? Do you want more seeds? What about 1/4 cup of almond meal? Play, adding and subtracting until you find your perfect mix of about 3 cups of grains. That add 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon cardamom, 1/2 teaspoon ginger and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

For the wet ingredients that bring this together, whisk together 2 cups of almond milk, 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce and 1 tablespoon vanilla.

Now assemble! Place the fruit mixture in the baking pan. Cover it with the dry mixture and slowly pour the wet mixture over the whole pan, poking holes into the dry to get everything combined without stirring.

Sprinkle an extra 1/2 cup blueberries and 1/2 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts or almond) if you’d like before baking for 35-40 minutes, or until the sides set up and start pulling away from the pan. Cool for 10 minutes before serving. It warms up beautifully slowly browned on the stove top or with 1 cup almond milk in a pot for days to come.

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Note: I soaked all of my grains (rolled oats, millet, amaranth and steel cut oats) and nuts (pecans) over night. I rinsed them the following day before putting them in the lowest oven I could (170 degrees) for about 1-2 hours before making the recipe. This sprouts the grains and nuts before using which can help with digestion, but it will work well whether you want to, or have the time for, sprout. The grains do get a little clumpy if you soak and dehydrate, but if you just break it up when you toss in the rest of the dry ingredients, it makes more of a crumble topping and will not affect the way it bakes!

morning ritual

 

 

 

 

When you work the morning shift, coffee is in abundance. The machine is one of the first things to be turned on and the early morning regulars are usually in for their cup before others in the town have woken.

I don’t drink coffee. My parents hardly do so it was never in the house. I love the smell of it and I love the flavor in desserts, but you’ll next to never see me buy a cup for myself. You really don’t want to see me on the caffeine high and crash either. It’s not a pretty picture.

Because of this, I often get asked, “Well how do you wake up?” The first time I was asked, I was confused. “The way everyone else does?” I questioned. Then I would get sarcastic by saying, “one foot in front of the other.” But the truth is this. I try to get enough sleep every night and when my alarm goes off, I never hit snooze. I just get up.

I get up. I make my tea. I get dressed. Pack my tea and my breakfast and drive to work. While flipping english muffins that we make in-house, I have my tea and I’m all set before we open.

lemon

Many friends have seen me make this tea. Most like it. It’s just a tad away from the norm, but at the same time, nothing that hasn’t been written about before.

Ginger + turmeric + lemon + apple cider vinegar + raw honey

While acidic in flavor, lemons have less sugar than other citrus fruits while also providing five times the alkalizing content than acidic. Alkalizing foods increase the body’s pH, providing an environment which is not conducive for bacteria or disease to grow. Always a good thing!

A high source of vitamin C, potassium and B1, lemons also aid in digestion. It acts has a natural and calm laxative to keep your organs working properly and cleansing the blood. It also contains important antiseptic and antimicrobial properties, much like coconut oil, to keep your immune system strong.

To make my version, heat water with an inch knob of fresh ginger and sometimes a half inch piece of tumeric. Bring these to a boil and lower to simmer for 20 minutes. If you’re using turmeric, it will give the water a lovely orange hue. Once those have simmered, I pour it into a quart Ball jar with the juice of 1/2 a lemon, a splash of unfiltered apple cider vinegar and a small squeeze of raw honey. It won’t be enough to fill the quart jar so I add room temperature or cool filtered water to reach the top, which not only adds in my water intake for the morning, but cools the whole drink so I can have it more quickly.

A calming, invigorating and soothing drink is the perfect start of the day in my mind.

Some rhubarb baked grains doesn’t hurt either, but that’s for another post…;)

ltg

For an easier take, you do not have to simmer ginger and turmeric for 20 minutes. I do for the added stimulating and cleansing effects those roots give, but if you’re pressed for time or don’t have them, no fret! Just heat your water and pour over the juice of half a lemon. Easy peasy!

morning in the market

market display

There’s something peaceful about working in the mornings now. Getting up with the sun, looking over the harbor. This week a misty, gray cast has shadowed the town, leaving enough humidity to open the door to the deck giving a slight cool to the hot stove.

buckles and croissants

Fresh blueberry buckles and croissants, which our pastry chef is now known for, fill the air as the english muffins I’m throwing on the griddle give a crackle. Calm.

loaded buckwheat brownies

I love chocolate. I have something chocolate-like everyday from smoothies, ice cream, cake or just a square. It’s a wonderful thing.

add ins

I wanted to make something special recently and after a conversation with a new friend about chocolate or vanilla, he said he liked chocolate more, but with add-ins even more so. This is where the “loaded” comes into play. A deep fudge- like brownie packed with pecans, walnuts, coconut and dried Maine blueberries and topped with cacao nibs. Yes, please and thank you.

raw milk butter

I saw this adaptation of David Lebowitz’s recipe and took it a step further using as many local ingredients I could find.

Unfortunately, chocolate will never be local and  I was spoiled in NYC with emerging bean-to-bar productions. I had 1# of my favorite Mast Brother’s chocolate, Crown Maple, left over from a project I worked on so I used that to keep the sugar content low since it’s made with maple sugar. Locally, Taza Chocolate is my favorite up here with their stone ground methods, cooperative farms and the use of organic cane sugar. Their chocolate covered nuts would be a fabulous addition too, but feel free to change up the additions to suit your preference or regional (dry) goods.

Many of you don’t know yet, but I primarily stay away from dairy. While it’s not an allergy, I’ve experienced negative symptoms after consumption. That said, being surrounded by farms that are selling their raw milk, yogurt and cheeses, it’s been making me long to try just a bite to see how’d it affect me.

When I went to the co-op when I first moved, I spied raw milk butter in the dairy case. Intrigued, I bought 1# and it’s sat in my refrigerator ever since. Yes, it’s been sitting there for five weeks. Using that, local buckwheat flour and local dried blueberries, these brownies are gluten free with no processed sugar and easily digestible dairy.

Now that’s an indulgence I can get behind.

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LOADED BUCKWHEAT BROWNIES

5 tablespoons (2.5 oz) unsalted butter
1 1/3 cups (8 oz) 70-75% dark chocolate, chopped

3/4 cup coconut sugar or organic cane sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla

1/4 buckwheat flour
pinch of sea salt

1 cup chopped, toasted pecans and walnuts
1/4 cup toasted coconut
1/4 dried Maine blueberries (or currants), rehydrated
1/4 cocoa nibs

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line with parchment and butter a 8×8 square pan.

2. In a double boiler, melt the butter and chocolate together. Cool slightly.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs and vanilla. Add to the chocolate mixture.

4. Add the flour and salt and whisk until the mixture looks thick and smooth. Fold in the nuts, coconut and dried fruit.

5. Pour batter into the baking pan and sprinkle the top with cocoa nibs. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the edges just slightly pull away and the middle is barely set. Cool, cut and serve…  a tall glass of homemade almond milk doesn’t hurt either :)

served brownies

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