Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Thanks & Giving......

Oh, I love this time of year. Fall is my favorite season followed closely by Winter! I love the things we do when Fall rolls around. I always look forward to the cooler days and the crisp nights filled with the smell of wood stoves, when we pull out our wool sweaters and hats. Candle lit nights wrapped in a cozy blanket with a fire in the fireplace, hearty, warm, filling meals and the anticipation of the holidays. I love sharing meals, time and conversation around the table with family. I come from a large family of nine children. Most of us now have children of our own, busy lives and are dispersed around the state, a few are even out of state so we can't get together like I wish we could. I appreciate being able to get together with my family members that are close and the holidays are the perfect time to do that. Thanksgiving just passed and I loved the preparation, the planning and just knowing that we were able to spend some time ALL together. I love the fact that I am able to share these times with my parents and that my parents are able to share them with my children. It is very humbling to see my baby interacting with my father. They have a bond that is at times hysterical to watch and brings a tear to my eye at others. These are the times we slow down to really cherish these moments. We always get a nice fresh turkey and it has to be a big one. Last year we enjoyed a 40 pound one, this year we scaled it back a bit to 35 pounds! Still a good sized turkey, enough to go around with leftovers for everyone. The day was easy and the food was wonderful. My daughters helped me in the kitchen which made it even better. Molly made the pies, Anna prepared the turkey and Emma helped with the side dishes. The conversation was light and fun as we reflected on how close we were to saying goodbye to another year and making plans for Christmas. I always look forward to this time of year, it seems to make me realize how thankful I am for all the things in my life and how lost I would be without the people who hold it all together. I love them all so very much and I wouldn't trade a minute of my crazy, busy life - not one single second!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Place to Return.......

I had mentioned in my last post that my husband and I had celebrated our 10TH Anniversary in October. We had received a gift certificate as a Christmas gift over two years ago for a Bed & Breakfast in Maine. The way time flies around here we were not surprised that it had been over two years that this most gracious gift had sat unused. We decided now that our youngest is almost two and this year was a milestone in our marriage we would put that gift to use. It has been a long time coming for some time away for the two of us. We have a pretty busy life and it is always extremely difficult to squeeze any extra time for each other. Just a little history, my husband and I are High School sweethearts, we have pretty much been together for almost 21 years! Oh my lord, that just seems crazy to say....21 YEARS!!! Sorry, back to the history. We have five beautiful children, a small farm that consists of a little flock of laying hens and a dog; my husband works an extremely demanding full time job and two part-time jobs, I am always busy with my bakery and the farmers market. These things that consume our time are more in depth than they seem, they branch out into committees, meetings, homework, reports, projects and groups that go along with them! So you see we are sparse on time! But we decided this was the year we would MAKE the time for each other, after ten years we had earned it. We have always loved Maine, especially the coast. We spent a lot of time there before we had children. We would make the two hour trip a few times a year, usually in the fall and winter months; two of our favorite seasons. It has been calling to us and every year we talk about getting back up there, to a place we strongly think we may end up living at some point in our lives. Now back to the trip, I made the reservations in August so we would have plenty of time to plan and make arrangements for the children. We were ready when the time came to leave, we were excited and we were full of anticipation. We had never stayed at a Bed & Breakfast, what should we expect? Our first impression was WOW! It was sitting up on the hill just demanding respect. It was beautiful, the lawn looked like a carpet that had just been laid out, the porch tucked into the trees and the third floor balconies peeking out from the grandeur of the roof line. The front door was just amazing, I have never seen a larger more inviting door in my life! It welcomed you into a beautiful foyer with stairs that seemed to touch the sky. There were simple touches of the season peeking out from every corner of the entry.

Our expectations were exceeded and we were excited to see what else was in store for us here. We were met by Paul who was just so relaxed and easy-going. We talked for a few minutes, as if we had know each other for years, before he showed us to our room. We had chosen Mary's Room, as we made our way up I began to think those stairs really did reach the sky! The room was so beautiful and cozy. I could just see myself spending the entire weekend right there, was there a reason to go anywhere else? The bed looked as if it were stuffed with clouds, we had a gift of delicious homemade chocolate truffles and sherry awaiting us and a balcony all our own.
The room was full of windows, a big over-sized floral recliner had my husbands name written all over it, but the pure character and charm were the most inviting. Cozy bath robes were hung neatly on chunky wooded hangers, just waiting for us to slip them on after a nice hot shower. What else can I say; the room was perfect! We decided to look around and familiarize ourselves with the place we would call home for the weekend. It is just the nicest place full of old charm and all the right little touches.
The lounge was cozy with a fire place surrounded by two cozy arm chairs, the perfect place to sit and enjoy a hot cup of coffee with a splash of Baily's Irish Cream after dinner, Yum!! Speaking of dinner, well it is hard to find the words to describe dinner at Chapman's Cottage. We chose the Prime Rib for the first night we were there and oh my heavens I have never ever seen a piece of prime rib like that in my life, nor have I ever tasted one so perfect. I swear it had to be a full two pounds of juicy seasoned perfection served with red smashed potatoes that melted in your mouth and a side of roasted asparagus that was cooked just the way I like it, still a bit of crunch! I forgot to mention the first course of jumbo and I mean Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail and New England Clam Chowder. When we were finished with dinner you could barely tell we had even eaten any of it and we had a hard time not taking another bite. It was so darn good you just wanted to eat more even if you had no more room. The next evening was even better, if you can believe that. We had plump perfectly cooked Fillet with the most delicious Bearnaise Sauce I have ever tasted. I swear if I could have gotten away with ordering a bowl of it, I would have eaten it like soup. Dinner was beyond gourmet without feeling at all stuffy or pretentious. If you can imagine having a meal like that at Grandmas, then that is how it was. Now breakfast was just as good, so simple but so very good. Even breakfast was a three course event, fresh fruit then the best blueberry muffin baked in a custard cup so it took on the texture almost like that of a bread pudding sprinkled with sugar on top and then the finale of a layered mountain of yum, smashed red potatoes topped with country style sausage and then topped with soft fluffy scrambled eggs. I was so full but I just could not stop eating it was good. The following morning we were graced with fresh pineapple, blackberries, raspberries, a fall apple, pecan, cranberry strudel finished off with huge pancakes made with Maine blueberries topped with butter and real maple syrup. There was fresh hot coffee, a huge array of teas and orange juice available from 7a.m. all the way through breakfast.
We left the breakfast table completely satisfied until dinner, which we usually ate later in the evening to avoid the dinner crowd. The restaurant was open to the public until the end of October. The public loved it just as much as the house guests did, why wouldn't they; great food, great atmosphere and the most pleasant hosts. Donna always greeted us each morning with a smile and every evening with that same smile. Never once did we feel uncomfortable we always felt like we had know Paul and Donna for years, pleasant easy conversation was abundant. We spent the weekend absolutely in love with the place we stayed and we left counting the days until we could get back to this place. We plan to return next year for our 11Th anniversary, but hopefully we can steal a few days sooner to come and visit. I will leave you with a few of my favorite pictures of Chapman Cottage........

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

100 Mile Anniversary.......

I am enjoying our local eating! I find it hard to believe that it has been about a month since we started down this path. I am pleasantly surprised at how many things we did not have to "do without". I guess having our little list of exceptions has made it easier, although we really do not have too many things on that list! With a little bit of research and a great store to shop at has made this a very enjoyable venture. I think we may just continue this challenge and adapt it as our everyday. The number one thing that has made this 100 Mile Challenge so easy is the knowledge and willingness to help that I have received from our local Co-op store. Everyone there is so eager to tell you where the products come from and you can see the delight in their faces when they say "This is from a farm right here in town" or "This farm is only a few miles from here". I love how happy they are to have someone just as excited to buy those items as they are to offer them! I could not get that kind of service in my local big grocery store, even if the tag said "local". I had a hard time believing it - what local meant to them was not the same as it meant to me!! And to top it off they actually said that they sometimes stick a "local" sign there because customers seem to prefer it. Hmmmm......does that seem right to you?? I am a firm believer that the further you get from the source, the further you get from the true story! I like to hear the story of my food from the person who wrote it, thank you very much! I like the connection I have with the person who has put so much time and effort into it. So I reach this month long Anniversary of sorts with a sense of accomplishment and appreciation for everything and everyone who has made me see that this such a reachable goal and that EVERYONE should attempt to at least try to incorporate one local item into their food world each week, you will be amazed at what you can find!!! I have added the recipes to go along with the photos in this post, they are so simple but so good and all ingrediants are local!
Birdsong Farm Potato's
These fingerling potatoes are my children's favorite thing for dinner. There have been many a night when they took center stage for dinner!
About 4 cups of fingerling potatoes cut into 1" pieces
2 chopped crimini onions
2 medium cloves of garlic chopped
2 tablespoons butter
Fresh cracked pepper & salt - to taste
Melt the butter in a cast iron pan. Add garlic & onions and saute for 3 - 4 minutes. Stir potatoes into the onions and garlic, cover and cook until potatoes are tender stirring occasionally. These potatoes cook so quickly when they are fresh and local, they have such a sweet buttery flavor. I sometimes will add hamburg or sausage to make a one pot meal - YUM!! Play with this recipe and add peppers, tomatoes or even summer squash or zucchini.
Hurricane Farm Sausage & Kale
I have to admit this is the first year I have cooked with Kale! I am so sad that I have missed so many years of this yummy food... My family loves spinach so they were happy to gobble this down - no complaints!
1 pound of Hurricane Farms Sausage
1 bunch of Kale
2 cloves of garlic
Saute garlic & sausage in a cast iron pan until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove stems from the kale and discard (or set aside and use to make stock) chop leaves and toss with the sausage & garlic. Cover and let the kale cook for about 15 - 20 minutes. Kale takes a little longer to wilt but is well worth the extra time. I serve this with some homemade bread and call it a meal. I have been know to make a soup out of this, I just add homemade chicken stock and some Israeli Couscous.... it is just the best.
During this journey we actually celebrated our 10Th wedding anniversary, a milestone in many ways! That will be my next post, because it will be FULL of photos!