A Maine Thanksgiving

November 26th, 2014 by Cathleen Miller

For most of us, Thanksgiving conjures up visions of food: food made by our mothers and grandmothers in our childhoods. We spend this holiday trying to live up to (or surpass) the meals of our past. Whether you are a traditionalist or a having a Friendsgiving party with people of many backgrounds, our cookbook selection holds some delicious (and interesting) ideas for your Thanksgiving and post-turkey meals.

From Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cookbook (1884), here are some of the basic traditional Thanksgiving staples:

Turkey, plus the all-important stuffing and gravy.

A variety of pies

For some new and interesting side dishes, I consulted Meg Wolff’s A Life in Balance (2010), which offers “plant-based recipes for optimal health.”

You might enjoy a side dish of Beet Slaw or Sweet Turnips:

Perhaps you are looking to re-create some of your mom’s favorite recipes?
Turn no further than the Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook (1959), which offers “slick tricks with vegetables” and some delicious apple-based desserts.


For those adventurous readers looking for a non-traditional Thanksgiving feast, you might enjoy a selection of vegetarian options from Barbara Damrosch & Eliot Coleman’s garden to table cookbook The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook (2013).

A nice appetizer

A simple, delicious main course

After all that food, you might need a good digestive tonic tea. Deb Soule’s most recent book How to Move Like a Gardener (2013) offers a simple tea that will help to nourish your body and keep your belly happy after any meal.

Finally, you’ll need some ideas for all that extra turkey.
Here are some traditional ideas from Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook.  

Perhaps a more modern inspiration is what your heart (or belly) desires.
Try Kathy Gunst’s Greek-Style Turkey-Lemon-Rice Soup.

There you have it–our round-up of recipes for this foodie holiday. Whether you’re preparing a meal for one or thirty, we hope you feel your appetite for good food and wonderful cookbooks whetted.

If you’re needing a good Maine cookbook, stop by Longfellow Books on Saturday to meet some local authors (including Monica Wood), and check out their wonderful selection of cookbooks.

Portland Food: The Culinary Capital of Maine

October 16th, 2014 by Laura Taylor

I’m excited to share with you that Kate McCarty will be at the Maine Women Writers Collection on Tuesday, October 21 at noon to talk to us about her new book Portland Food: The Culinary Capital of Maine. I love reading about food, whether it’s a new cookbook we’ve acquired or a book more like this one that talks about food – the restaurants, farms and chefs behind it all.

I think we can all agree that Portland has a tremendously popular food scene. It’s been mentioned everywhere from The New York Times to The Boston Globe. This brief, yet comprehensive, book discusses the history behind it and the current players, leaving me wishing I had more time and money to explore all the delicious dining options in our fair city.

McCarty’s book starts out with a quick overview of the Portland food scene, before moving on to talk about local chefs, farming, cheesemaking, and seafood. A recurring theme is the ever-changing issue of sustainable local food, which is something food producers and consumers think a lot about here. And with good reason – you don’t produce 90% of the world’s lobster supply by practicing unsustainable fishing!

McCarty then goes on to discuss our fantastic local farmers’ markets, food trucks, pop up dining events and co-ops. There are so many ways to acquire food in the Portland area, whether you’re in the market for raw ingredients to cook at home, need a quick bite while out on the town, or want to eat at one of Portland’s fantastic and varied restaurants. There’s even a chapter on food insecurity and the work that local organizations are doing to try to get food to our fellow Mainers in need.

Finally, the book finishes up, as all good meals do, with sweets and coffee. Portland has some delicious options for baked treats and chocolates and amazing, locally roasted coffee. Perhaps read this book while lounging in a coffee shop and snacking on a sweet treat?

I would.

Or come by the Maine Women Writers Collection next Tuesday, the 21st, at noon and meet the author!

Cooking with Maine Women Writers: Standard Baking Co. Pastries

June 11th, 2014 by Laura Taylor

Have you had a morning bun from Standard Baking Co.? Have you perused their cookbook – Standard Baking Co. Pastries? If not, I highly recommend it. Their morning buns are one of my very favorite foods…ever. Made with croissant dough, then stuffed with cinnamon and brown sugar (and nuts, if you like), they are sweet, flaky and delicious. Imagine my delight when I received their cookbook for Christmas last year and realized that the morning bun recipe was in there. Oh the possibilities!

They’re a terrifically indulgent treat (hello, butter!) and they take quite some time to make, so they definitely won’t be making it onto my regular breakfast schedule. Normally, I post the recipes I’ve made here for you to try at home but in this case, I’m not going to – it’s far too long and involved. The buns start with butter croissant dough – the ingredients list is short but the instructions are long. There are many steps, requiring a bit of planning and forethought.

For those of you who’ve never made croissant dough before, the process is lengthy but not especially complicated. It starts with a yeasted dough, which is left to rise for a bit. The dough is then wrapped in plastic and transferred to the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Following this resting period, a large square of butter is wrapped in dough and rolled out, then folded and allowed to rest in the refrigerator for an hour or so. The dough gets rolled out and folded several times (call “laminating”), with an hour’s rest in between each folding/rolling, which is what makes the process so lengthy. It’s not an especially complicated or difficult process, but it definitely requires a certain investment of time. When the dough is finally ready, it rests in the refrigerator for another 2 hours before shaping. (Alternately, it can be frozen for up to 10 days and then thawed overnight before shaping, which is what I did.)

At this point, it can be shaped into croissants or…morning buns! To make the morning buns, the dough is rolled out one last time, then covered with a cinnamon and brown sugar mixture. You roll it up and slice it into 12 pieces and then put each piece in a buttered muffin tin into which has been placed a teaspoon of the cinnamon sugar mixture and some chopped walnuts, if that’s your thing. (I love the addition of walnuts, but my kids don’t, so I did half of each.) The buns are left to rise again, then baked. Finally they’re tipped out of their tins onto a piece of parchment paper and all that delicious melted cinnamon/sugar/nut mixture drizzles down.

This was my first attempt at making croissant dough and I’m incredibly pleased with how it turned out. The buns were amazing – the whole family agrees! The instructions were clear and well-written and, despite the fact that I’m a pretty regular baker, I do think someone without much (or any) baking experience could follow these directions without too much difficulty.

The authors of the cookbook, Alison Pray and Tara Smith, gave a great lunchtime talk at Portland Public Library last week, where they discussed how they got into baking, the process of writing a cookbook and the local food scene in Maine, among other topics.

It was fascinating to hear a behind-the-scenes account of writing a cookbook, particularly one devoted to baking. The process takes years. They have to scale down recipes from bakery-quantities to home cook-quantities – most home cooks don’t need to make a batch of hundreds of cookies. (Delicious though that may be.) They convert ingredients from weights to measures for the convenience of the home cook who generally uses measuring cups and spoons instead of a scale. (If you have a kitchen scale, use it! The results will be more accurate and consistent.) They have to do research to make sure the ingredients required are commonly available to the home cook. The recipes were tested – by the authors, bakers, family members, friends – and re-tested to make sure that they were clear and could be easily followed by folks who don’t have any baking experience at all. (This is likely why the directions for laminating the croissant dough are so lengthy – so those of us who’ve never done it before feel comfortable attempting the process!) The cookbook was edited and proofread repeatedly. (It’s probably a good idea to make sure the instructions don’t direct you to add salt by the cupful to a recipe for biscotti.)

The pair also talked about a typical day in a bakery and gave some interesting statistics on the volume of baking involved. For instance, during a typical week in the summertime, the bakery will make 300 bags of molasses cookies. At 8 cookies per bag, that’s 2400 cookies, all shaped and rolled in sugar by hand. (That’s 150 lbs of dough, if you’re wondering.) And that’s only one of the numerous varieties of cookies. And that’s just cookies – not to mention breakfast pastries, tarts, cakes, other snacks and, of course, bread. Having never worked in a bakery, this is just mind boggling to me!

I was quite pleased to see that they had (as I’d hoped they might) brought along a few samples for the crowd at the library. I didn’t arrive in time to snag a molasses cookie but the chocolate one I was able to get was delightful.

I think perhaps I’ll next have to attempt the molasses spice cookies at home…or perhaps coconut macaroons? So many delicious choices…

Cooking with Maine Women Writers: New Year’s resolutions

January 15th, 2014 by Laura Taylor

The New Year is upon us and with the New Year very often comes…New Year’s resolutions! Have you made any resolutions this year? Are you sticking to them? Perhaps you’ve vowed to read more, exercise more, be nicer, get out of debt or volunteer. Of course, there’s always the ever-popular resolution to eat better and/or lose weight. I don’t know about you, but after the excesses of the holidays, I’m ready to get back to more vegetables and less sugar.

Vegetable flower bouquet from Farm Journal’s Best-Ever Vegetable Recipes.

We have here in our collection a lovely cookbook by Meg WolffA Life in Balance: Delicious Plant-Based Recipes for Optimal Health. Published in 2010, the book is full of healthy recipes like Summery Quinoa Salad, Vegan Pad Thai, Sweet Turnips with Maple Glaze and the one I’m going to share with you here today – George’s Tuscan Bean and Bread Hearty Stew.

This hearty stew could certainly fit right into a new year of healthy eating!

George’s Tuscan Bean and Bread Hearty Stew

In January 1999, Dr. Devra Krassner, a naturopath, told me that “some women with breast cancer have been helped by the macrobiotic (a plant-based) diet.” She later told me that her father George Krassner had adopted the way of eating when he was diagnosed in 1988 with advanced prostate cancer, which was expected to be terminal. My husband and I met George and his wife Judith on a trip to Italy in 2001. After that, we got together each year when they came up from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to Maine to visit their children. When I saw George in summer 2009, he was 80. He continues to live a healthy and active life, continues to travel, and still beats his 20-year-old grandson at tennis (almost).

  • 1 1/2 cups pre-soaked cannellini beans
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 small ribs celery
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 2 carrots, sliced in rounds
  • 2 cups green cabbage, coarsely chopped
  • 16-ounce can stewed tomatoes
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped kale
  • sea salt, black pepper, garlic, shoyu to taste
  • 3 slices sourdough or whole-grain bread, cut into bite-size pieces

Soak beans overnight. Bring the beans to a boil on high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for 1 hour or until tender.

Optional: Set aside 3/4 cup cooked beans; puree the remaining beans with the cooking liquid.

Heat olive oil on low to medium heat in a soup pan, then add the celery, onion, carrots, and cabbage. Stir well and saute for 3 to 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and water to cover. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the beans (and the puree, if used). Simmer covered for 1/2 hour. Add chopped kale and cook for 8 more minutes. Season with spices to taste. Stir in bread and serve.

Serves 6.

George says: “I’m pleased to credit my friend, Ginger Seles, a holistic chef, caterer and purveyor of natural skin-care products, for the basis of this recipe.”

Have a happy healthy new year!

Cooking with Maine Women Writers: maple gelato

August 28th, 2013 by Laura Taylor

This post was intended for maple syrup season, way back in the spring. But life got in the way, maple syrup season ended and the post remained forgotten. Then summer came along – the perfect time for gelato! – but with summer comes family barbecues, beach days, and hot weather. I don’t know about you, but hot weather generally means I’m not up for spending time at the stove. And despite this recipe being for a delicious frozen treat, there is some standing at the stove involved. Not a lot, mind you, but some. Even some is too much for me when it’s 85 degrees in my kitchen and the cool waters of our favorite swimming spot are calling my name.

Complicating matters, I don’t actually own an ice cream maker, which you will need to make this recipe.

However, at the end of the summer, at one of those family barbecues, an aunt came forward with an ice cream maker she’d never used! She’d seen a Facebook post of mine back in the spring asking to borrow an ice cream maker (for this very recipe) and remembered, all these months later.

So, with no other excuses to be made, I decided to finally get down to business and make myself (and my family if they were lucky) some maple gelato.

The recipe was published in Portland, Maine Chef’s Table by Margaret Hathaway, a beautiful cookbook containing recipes from nearly 50 of Portland’s wonderful restaurants. Think Otto’s mashed potato, bacon and scallion pizza, Silly’s fried pickles, and Duckfat’s pork belly “BLT,” to name a few of my personal favorites. There are a multitude of others, including this one – Maine maple gelato from Maple’s Organic.

Maine Maple Gelato
makes about 1 quart

  • 1 cup maple syrup, darkest available
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

In a heatproof bowl, beat together maple syrup and egg yolks until the mixture is noticeably lightened in color. Set aside.

In a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat, bring milk and sea salt to a boil, then remove from heat. Whisking rapidly to prevent the eggs from scrambling, stream about 1 cup of the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture. Stream this mixture back into the remaining hot milk, again whisking rapidly. Add the cream, mix thoroughly, and refrigerate for several hours. When thoroughly chilled, freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions in the ice cream maker of your choice.

So after freezing our ice cream bowl, per manufacturer instructions, and making this delicious ice cream mixture, turns out the never-been-used ice cream maker we had been given…doesn’t work. Oh no! What’s a gelato-loving girl to do? Our mixture was already starting to freeze in the bowl, so we just turned the insert by hand. Sure, it’s not as automatic as simply turning it on and coming back in under 30 minutes to a perfectly frozen creamy treat, but it worked. Mostly. After a short stint in the freezer to firm it up some more, it was pretty much perfect. (And by perfect, I mean it was sort of icy. I blame operator error, not the recipe.) But! It was delicious. So delicious, in fact, that I never had a chance to take any photos of it! I always like to accompany my blog posts (especially food posts) with a lovely photo, but our photo subject in this case didn’t stick around long enough.

As we head into fall, I suppose I’ll have to start searching our collection for some fall-inspired recipes! But first I’m going to enjoy every last moment of this beautiful summer. Gelato, anyone?