Maine Food Cruises – Veggies and Greens, Oh My!

One of the many questions I get from folks in the cooking realm is what to do with all the veggies that come for their CSAs.  Now that Community Supported Agriculture has taken parts of our country by storm, the questions keep coming.  Among them are… What else can I do with my kale?  How do I use up that ugly kohlrabi that keeps turning up in my box?  Is there a way to combine all of these veggies in a meal or dish?


On our Maine Gourmet Food Cruises we talk about how to combine veggies, what to do to make them interesting, and how to preserve them if you just have too darn much to use in a week’s time.

Vegetable Tip:  To keep lettuce and greens longer in the refrigerator, wash the lettuce and remove every bit of water that you can and then layer the leaves with a dish towel or paper towel.  Store in a large tub with a lid or in a resealable plastic bag.  I’ve used this technique on long, at sea adventures, on the Riggin and in my home kitchen to great effect.  Another way to preserve hearty greens is to clean and dry them, ribs removed.  Once they are dry, coat them in a thin layer of olive oil.  They will last for at least a week and a half in the refrigerator.

Thinking about greens galore and our next Maine Food Cruise, July 6 to 9!


Knitting Vacation – Dyeing to Knit

On a sunny day in June, our Maine Knitting Cruise crowd took to the island armed with indigo dye and yarn.  The process was magical, beautiful, creative, and a complete blast.

Below is the best of the process start to finish.  Ending with the yarn hanging over the wood stove for a final dry.  Of course the day wouldn’t have been complete without an all you can eat Maine lobster bake too!

Lobster time!  Photo by: Margie Ariano
Lobster time! Photo by: Margie Ariano
A happy camper who's had her fill. Photo by: Margie Ariano
A happy camper who’s had her fill.  You go, Nancy! Photo by: Margie Ariano

But before lobster’s were had in plenty…

The kettles of water coming up to temperature over the fire. Photo by: Jackie Ottino Graf
The kettles of water coming up to temperature over the fire. Photo by: Jackie Ottino Graf
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Jackie passing out yarn for dyeing.
Checking for temperature.
Checking for temperature.
Happy knitters taking a break while the water heats up.
Happy knitters taking a break while the water heats up.
Yarn twisted, tied and loose, ready for dyeing. Photo by: Jackie Ottino Graf
Yarn twisted, tied and loose, ready for dyeing. Photo by: Jackie Ottino Graf
At first it's green! Photo by: Jackie Ottino Graf
At first it’s green! Photo by: Jackie Ottino Graf
Then it oxidizes and turns blue.  Magic right before our eyes! Photo by: Jackie Ottino Graf
Then it oxidizes and turns blue. Magic right before our eyes! Photo by: Jackie Ottino Graf
Hanging to let the dye oxidize and set. Photo by: Jackie Ottino Graf
Hanging to let the dye oxidize and set. Photo by: Jackie Ottino Graf
A rinse in the ocean to remove excess (organic) dye.  (No oceans were harmed in this process - promise.) Photo by: Jackie Ottino Graf
A rinse in the ocean to remove excess (organic) dye. (No oceans were harmed in this process – promise.) Photo by: Jackie Ottino Graf
Before and after our island time... Photo by: Margie Ariano
Before and after our island time… Photo by: Margie Ariano

Can’t wait to do this again

P.S.  Our next knitting cruise is August 31 to September 5. If knitting is not your thing, try out the Maine Food Cruise – Cooking with Annie, July 6 to 9.

A Knitting Retreat to Dye For

The first of our Maine knitting cruises has come and gone with great success and many highlights to share!

The trip began with a visit to the Swan’s Island Company north of where the Riggin is docked.  Jackie Ottino Graf, the resident dye-master and social media maven of the company, took us through the dyeing process, handed out complementary patterns with yarn, and shared her extensive knowledge.

Photo by: Elizabeth Poisson
Damp, undyed yarn waiting for the dye vat. Photo by: Elizabeth Poisson
Indigo-dyed yarn hanging to dry.  Photo by: Elizabeth Poisson
Indigo-dyed yarn hanging to dry. Photo by: Elizabeth Poisson
Jackie displaying limited edition, indigo-dyed throw, "Whitecaps". Photo by: Elizabeth Poisson
Jackie displaying a limited edition, indigo-dyed throw, “Whitecaps”. Photo by: Elizabeth Poisson
Photo by: Elizabeth Poisson
Each blanket is created by hand, each “whitecap” is added by hand. Photo by: Elizabeth Poisson
Photo by: Elizabeth Poisson
Swan’s Island Blankets hanging in the show room. Photo by: Elizabeth Poisson
Photo by: Elizabeth Poisson
Gorgeousness! Photo by: Elizabeth Poisson
Our hosts!  Thank you Jackie, Bill and Swan's Island Company.  Photo by: Elizabeth Poisson
Our hosts! Thank you Jackie, Bill and Swan’s Island Company. Photo by: Elizabeth Poisson
Mim smaller
Mim instructing on the first day.
Hanging out in the galley, knitting away.

The next day found us in the Rockland yarn shop, Over the Rainbow Yarn, owned by Mim Bird, resident knitting instructor extraordinaire, for last minute items and extra yarn (because who doesn’t need EXTRA yarn)?  We left the dock shortly after for our 4-day adventure armed with more yarn than we could possible knit in as many days.

Our first day had us romping across the bay to feisty winds and feistier seas with a promise of sunnier days to come.  Mim started everyone off with information on how to knit with multi-colored yarn, the difference between a tonal yarn and variegated yarn, plus many more tidbits and facts.

As with any knitting retreat, some dug right in to their project and managed to knit furiously, finishing on the last night.  Others meandered their way through the day, working on the official project some and their pet projects as well.

I’ll post photos of the actual dyeing process next, because that cool event deserves it’s own post.

My hands are blue (from indigo), but my spirit is sunny

P.S. When you go to the Swan’s Island Company website, check out what schooner is the setting for some of the photos!  And,yes, the model and the yarn are pretty too.

P.P.S.  Our next two knitting cruises are June 19 to 22 and August 31 to September 5.  You should come!

Easy Cowl – Upcycled Turtleneck

Recycling used clothing has to be among one of the most satisfying ways to spend a cold Sunday afternoon (other than watching the Patriots win the Super Bowl – GO Pats!)  Easy, frugal, fun and useful all at the same time, this sweater became a pair of hand warmers for Ella, a mini-skirt for Chloe and a cowl for me.  Now the rule is that no one can wear their item on the same day.  Fair enough.

Recycled Sweater 10
Lay the sweater out on a cutting board.
Recycled Sweater 12
Cut straight across the top from sleeve seam to sleeve seam.
Recycled Sweater 11
Cut off the sleeves. They will need to be edged in some way. Create a thumb hole with a button hole attachment on your sewing machine.
Recycled Sweater 15
Trim the neck seam. Embellish with a blanket stitch in a complementary-colored yarn.
Recycled Sweater 16
Wear on the days that your daughters are not wearing their items!

New clothes!

Canning Pear Nectar

This fall, I was the surprised recipient of a beautiful bushel of pears from what we think is a Seckle Pear tree. That gift, however, did not come co-bundled with an abundance of time. I was determined that this gift would not sit too long while I put it off until the pears were passed perfectly ripe and had moved into “uh oh.”


To hustle along, I decided to not can them as whole pears, but as nectar. Making nectar is a much easier process than canning whole fruit, as it does not require peeling. It begins with making a loose pear sauce much the same way one would apple sauce by bringing to a simmer pear quarters and water and cooking until the pears are either tender or falling apart. Pear varieties will differ in whether they stay together once they are fully cooked or fall apart – just like apples.

With the addition of lemon juice and sugar plus a hot pack canning process, pear nectar emerges. I’ll use it all winter long in smoothies instead of honey, as a juice for brunch, a foundation for mixed drinks, combined with ginger ale for a special drink for the girls and, well, I let you know what else I come up with!

Thank you, friend Glen. I’m glad we are both good at sharing.

Homemade Salt Scrub – A Handmade Christmas Gift

In the winter time when the temperature drops, the air inside the house gets dry and my hair begins to stand up on it’s own from the static electricity, my skin also gets dry.  After trying lotions and potions, some expensive, some not, my mom gave me a salt and oil scrub as a gift one year.  I was hooked.  Yet a jar of sea salt scrub costs over $10 per jar and lasts a month or less.  Being a homemade sort of girl, I wondered if I could make it at home and have it be just as wonderful.  And I can.

Salt Scrub

Homemade Salt Scrub
1 wide mouth jar that you can reach your fingers into to scoop
sea salt, medium grind not fine
canola oil, jojoba oil or almond oil
essential oils

My favorite scent combinations are:
Lemon and Lavender
Rosemary and Orange
Fir Needle and Lemon
Rosemary and Lavender

Pour sea salt into the jar until it is 1/2-inch from the top of the jar.  Add the oil in batches until it has completely soaked in and then add 10 drops each of the scents of your preference.  Cover with a secure lid.  This will last as long as the oil does, so more perishable oils like almond oil will maybe last a month or two where as canola oil will last much longer.  However, if you like using this scrub as much as I do, it won’t even last a month before you are making more.

With happy skin

Blood Orange Marmalade – It’s not too late!

Citrus season is almost over, but as I write, the last (or I’m hoping the last!) big winter storm is raging outside and any sort of canning seems like just the thing to keep the house toasty warm.  I know when summer rolls around I’ll be so happy to have these gem-like jars of coral-colored goodness for our guests to slather on biscuits or muffins in the morning or for an afternoon snack.

Blood Orange Marmalade 2

This recipe for blood orange marmalade is a combination of Alton Brown’s and Margaret Yardley Potter’s and is as easy as pie.  The initial inspiration came when cozied up last night with At Home on the Range a cookbook presented by Elizabeth Gilbert and written by her great-grandmother Margaret Yardley Potter.

At Home on the Range

I’m in love with this no-nonsense woman who is far before her time when it comes to honoring ingredients and the flavor of the food she creates.  The recipes are more of a guide and written as my grandmother wrote her recipes rather than the exacting format more popular today.  It’s how I cook and it’s a book that I’m loving spending time with.  (Buy your local copy here at Hello, Hello Books!)

Blood Orange Marmalade 1

And for the more exacting formula:

Blood Orange Marmalade
1 3/4 pound blood oranges; about 5 medium oranges
1 lemon, zested and juiced
6 cups water
3 pounds pounds plus 12 ounces sugar
10, 8-ounce canning jars with lids

Wash thoroughly and slice the oranges into very thin slivers with either a sharp knife or a mandoline removing the seeds along the way.  Quarter the slices and transfer to a large stock pot.   Add the lemon zest, juice and water and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a strong simmer and cook for about 40 minutes or until the fruit is very soft.  Stop here and refrigerate the oranges and continue the next day OR continue on with the rest of the recipe right off.

Place a small plate into the freezer.

While the oranges are cooking, prepare a large water bath with either a canning basket or a cake rack on the bottom.  Add the jars and lids to the water and make sure they are covered with at least 1 inch of water.  Cover with a lid.  Bring the pot to a boil and boil for 10 minutes.  Turn off the heat, and let sit until you are ready to fill the jars.

When the oranges are soft, add the sugar and return to a full boil for 15 to 20 minutes or until a candy thermometer reads 222 to 223 degrees.  To make sure, place 1 teaspoon of marmalade on the plate in the freezer and wait 30 seconds.  If the marmalade still runs when you tip the plate sideways, it’s not done.

Remove the jars and lids carefully from the water bath and set upright on a towel.  Place a funnel over the jars and ladle marmalade filling the jars with 1/2-inch clearance at the top.  Wipe any remaining marmalade off the edge, cover with lid to just hand tight and return to the water bath in either the canning basket or on top of the cake rack.  Boil for 10 minutes and remove from water onto a towel.

Now comes the fun part.  Wait for each lid to pop.  This is your reward for a job well done.  (Well, and eating the goodness you just created.)

Orange you glad I shared this recipe?

Chicken and Red Kidney Bean Chili

It’s not always practical to follow a recipe, although it may be easier on some fronts.  Certainly, knowing that someone else has tested a recipe increases the chances of success.  On the other hand, when those moments arrive when ‘there’s nothing in the fridge to eat’ but still no space for more food, it’s time to get creative.   Typically, following a recipe is not going to use up the eclectic mix of ingredients found collected in your home and refrigerator.

In these moments, soup is one among many meals that work well for using up odds and ends of things.  However, this needs to be done in a somewhat thoughtful fashion, else the soup becomes a muddy, unappetizing mess – everything-but-the-kitchen-sink sort of mess.  The ingredients should somehow relate to one another.  What I found yesterday in the house were the following… all needing to find a home in a meal.

Red Bean Chicken Chili

Chicken and Red Kidney Bean Chili
olive oil
chicken breast
diced onion
diced green pepper
minced garlic
partial packet of taco seasoning from a taco kit
plus some extra cumin
salt and pepper
cooked red kidney beans
chicken broth

Heat the oil in a medium stock pot over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and peppers and saute until translucent.  Add the garlic, chicken, spices, salt and pepper and saute until the chicken is cooked through.  Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a simmer.  Simmer for 30 minutes and either serve or let sit refrigerated for a day to absorb the flavors of the spices.

Waiting one more day before I go to the grocery store

Eco-Friendly, Green and Local – What’s Next?

As a food writer and business owner I’m constantly challenged by what the next new idea is. It used to be that we were on the leading edge of things. We were one of the first 50 businesses in Maine to receive the Leadership in Hospitality award from the Department of Environmental Protection. Our “It’s All About the Food Cruises,” where 90% of our food came from within 100 miles of us, were the first of their kind in our area. Even composting and recycling on the boat — which trust me, took some effort to figure out — are places where we led the way.

But now that everyone and every business is “green” — or at least they say they are — where do we go from here to be a leader? Likewise, everyone is talking about how local they are. Now that we buy entire sides of local beef and pork, raise nearly half of our veggies in the garden and buy almost all the rest from a CSA, what’s next? Raising our own animals? On 0.6 acres of land? That’s “zero point six” acres, not 6 acres. Not likely. Perhaps we should have hens on the boat like they used to do on the ships that sailed around the world; from the beginning of the voyage those early sailors carried many of the animals that would become their sustenance.

Then my mind wanders to what prompted us to go green, local and sustainable to begin with. At the core, it was about providing a clean environment and healthy food for our family. In the end, the business received the benefit as well, but initially, all I wanted was to avoid hormones, pesticides, antibiotics, and chemicals in our food.

We began with the goal of healthy food for our family and in the process created a healthy food experience for our guests and for our schooner business.  Do we relish being a leader? Definitely. And will we keep looking for the next new good things for our family…AND for our schooner?  Absolutely.  And, in the meantime, we can also bask in the enjoyment of what we’ve created.  To love walking in the gardens early in the morning with a cup of coffee and deciding what is to be harvested for the next trip.  To know that the bulk of what we are serving and eating is full of that which is good for us.  And to enjoy the literal and figurative fruits of our creations.

I can be satisfied with that.  Absolutely.


Chloe Harvesting Sailing Morning

Gardening Duo 1

Gardening Duo 2

Rhubarb Champagne Jam

While there isn’t much time for anything in between trips, I do try to squeeze in a smidge to process jam that we make on the boat.  I’ll make a big batch there and then bring it home to process in a water bath.  While it’s an effort to do it, I’m always so grateful in the middle of the winter that I was able to eek out the time.

This batch came from a bunch of Champagne that was open but left behind by a family celebrating a 50th wedding anniversary.  It happened to coincide with the rhubarb coming into full swing.  The combination is a lovely one with the tang of the rhubarb softened slightly by the fruity Champagne.  In any case, I love the color of it and it’s pretty special on our biscuits.
Rhubarb Champagne Jam 3

Rhubarb Champagne Jam 2

Rhubarb Champagne Jam 1
Rhubarb Champagne Jam
4 1/2 cups rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup champagne
1 box SureJell
1/2 teaspoon butter
6 1/2 cups sugar

Have all canning equipment and jars ready, sterilized and waiting in hot water.

In a medium stock pot bring the rhubarb and champagne to a boil.  Add SureJell and bring to a boil again.  Add the butter and the sugar and bring to a full rolling boil for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and transfer to the hot canning jars.  Screw the lids on hand tight and process in a water bath for 10 minutes.  Remove the jars carefully from the hot water and set on a towel spread out over the counter top.  Let cool.  Make sure the lids all ‘pop’ before storing for the winter.

Makes 7 or 8, 8-ounce jars

We be jammin’