Cocktails – In Good Company

On a sunny day in March (they are happening more and more frequently), Elizabeth and I left the office for a cocktail adventure.  Sometimes work is so HARD!  As we entered the back door of In Good Company, one of my favorite restaurants in Rockland; well… in Maine; well… anywhere, we were greeted by Melody Wolfertz, owner and chef, and an unusual sound found in restaurants – quiet.

As she led us to the patina-ed walnut bar, she started right in, filling the quiet with the sounds of a restaurant – the click of ice falling into bar glasses, the dull chime of spirit bottles bumping up next to each other as they are pulled from shelves and amidst it all, the chatter of engaged creativity on my favorite subjects – food and cocktails.  We spent a good deal of time talking about flavor profiles, the wonderful freshness and ingenuity that has literally and figuratively infused the cocktail world over the past decade, and what she thinks about when she’s making a well-balanced cocktail.

The full recipe and article will be out in the May issue of Maine Spirits, but in the meantime, here’s a look at our fun afternoon together.

A captivating array of bitters by the Fee Brothers and our local Sweet Grass Winery.
Sharing The In Good Company, a Negroni and several botanicals.
Talking, learning, sipping, and having fun!
The In Good Company, a rif on a cosmo, made with rhubarb syrup and blueberry bitters.
Ice ball made on site for those who like their spirits cold and only slightly watered.
The bar at In Good Company in Rockland, Maine. You should go!

Sometimes a girls gotta work REEAL hard

Clementine and Grand Marnier Chocolate Cake

Elizabeth’s favorite flavors are chocolate and orange and so for her birthday in late March, can you guess what sort of cake she asked for?  Knowing that Easter was on it’s way, and also knowing that while SHE got her cake, WE didn’t get our cake, I decided to make it again and this time for our Easter dinner crowd.

This cake is lovely for a couple of reasons.  The oil and sour cream make it a forgiving batter that once baked into a cake, stays forever moist.   The clementine zest, orange extract and Grand Marnier ensure that the cake is infused with orange flavor at several different levels.  Lastly, the bright orange garnish of the clementine lends an eye-catching splash of happy color and tang.

IMG_9815-001aClementine and Grand Marnier Chocolate Cake
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons clementine zest; about 3 clementines
2 eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons Grand Marnier
2 teaspoons orange extract
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
8 tablespoons salted butter
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon orange extract
2 clementines, sliced thinly and halved for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease two 9-inch round cake pans and set aside.

Using the paddle attachment and a large mixing bowl combine sugar, zest, eggs and canola oil on low speed.  Measure out the rest of the wet ingredients in one liquid measuring container and measure all of the dry ingredients into a sifter.  Alternate adding the wet and dry ingredients to the mixing bowl ending with wet.

Divide batter evenly between the two cake pans and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the edges of the cake have pulled away from the sides of the pan a little and a toothpick comes clean when inserted into the center.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool completely.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat.  When the butter is melted, remove the pan from the heat and let the chocolate continue to melt.  When the chocolate is fully melted, add the sour cream and the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

To Assemble:
To assemble the cake, remove the cooled cakes from their pans and transfer one to a serving platter.  Spread 1/2 of the glaze onto the top of the cake and rim with clementines so that you will be able to see the rinds.  Repeat the process with the second cake.  The glaze is a little easier to deal with if it has cooled somewhat, but don’t wait until it has cooled completely as it will set up.  Garnish with clementine halves and serve.

Serves 12 to 16



Gonna get me that last slice…

Blizzard Cake – Lemon Roulade with Blueberries and Cream

For our family, the winter is a time of much needed hibernation.  Our summers are busy, intense, focused (and lets not forget FUN), however, every second has a name from the middle of May to the middle of October.  This sort of intensity requires an equal and opposite energy, which is what winters in Maine are designed for in our house.

As you may have heard, our New England winter has had more than it’s fair share of snow this year, which fits perfectly into our hibernation mode.  Those years where it doesn’t snow much are just a little bit harder to sink into.  We CAN go out all the time.  There are very few snow days, the phone rings more, the possibilities for a day are endless.

Not true when it’s blowing 30 knots from the North East and the snow has been falling for hours with no end in sight.  Those days are p.j. days, cozy days, baking days, writing days.  They are slow because the choices are limited, meetings are cancelled and the urge to knit increases 10-fold.  The permission to have a meandering freedom about the day is exactly what a family needs when their summers are as packed as ours are.

Our days are on somewhat of a repeat.  Snow, shovel, bake, knit, write, snow, shovel, cook, knit, write.  Repeat. I find myself in the minority, where the continual wildness followed by a hoary, sunny calm is energizing.  Interspersed with a snow shoe and a horse ride, the dormancy is like a cozy sweater with a long, soft scarf wrapped around my neck.  Comforting, calm, creative and cozy.

This cake, Blizzard Roulade with Lemon Curd, Blueberries and Cream,  is named after the first blizzard that blew through our winter, but certainly not the last.  As I write, another 8 to 12 inches is falling on our world.  Maybe I’ll go bake another cake.

Cozy and calm

Lay the cake out flat on the towel.
Spread blueberry jam and lemon curd. Roll gently.
Final roll. Anchor with a toothpick if needed.
Delicious frosting.
Can’t resist. Who caught that on camera?

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.

French Apple Cake – I Wouldn’t Change a Thing!

Most of the time when I follow a baking recipe, I have to change something.  It might be the extract or the zest or the alcohol or the fruit that I change, but I must change something.  When I made this recipe, for some reason, I just followed like a sheep in a herd and I’m so glad I did.  It’s lovely.  It’s delicious.  With coffee, with tea, by itself.  I’m a fan.


French Apple Cake
Published September 1, 2012,  Cook’s Illustrated.
Serves 8 to 10

The microwaved apples should be pliable but not completely soft when cooked. To test for doneness, take one apple slice and try to bend it. If it snaps in half, it’s too firm; microwave it for an additional 30 seconds and test again. If Calvados is unavailable, 1 tablespoon of apple brandy or white rum can be substituted.

1 1/2 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, cut into 8 wedges, and sliced 1/8 inch thick crosswise
1 tablespoon Calvados
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup (5 ounces) plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup (7 ounces) plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg plus 2 large yolks
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Confectioners’ sugar


1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Spray 9-inch springform pan with vegetable oil spray. Place prepared pan on rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Place apple slices into microwave-safe pie plate, cover, and microwave until apples are pliable and slightly translucent, about 3 minutes. Toss apple slices with Calvados and lemon juice and let cool for 15 minutes.
2. Whisk 1 cup flour, 1 cup granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt together in bowl. Whisk egg, oil, milk, and vanilla together in second bowl until smooth. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and whisk until just combined. Transfer 1 cup batter to separate bowl and set aside.
3. Add egg yolks to remaining batter and whisk to combine. Using spatula, gently fold in cooled apples. Transfer batter to prepared pan; using offset spatula, spread batter evenly to pan edges, gently pressing on apples to create even, compact layer, and smooth surface.
4. Whisk remaining 2 tablespoons flour into reserved batter. Pour over batter in pan and spread batter evenly to pan edges and smooth surface. Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon granulated sugar evenly over cake.
5. Bake until center of cake is set, toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, and top is golden brown, about 1¼ hours. Transfer pan to wire rack; let cool for 5 minutes. Run paring knife around sides of pan and let cool completely, 2 to 3 hours. Dust lightly with confectioners’ sugar, cut into wedges, and serve.

This is me, not changing a thing

Chocolate Strawberry Cream Cake

Chocolate, strawberries and cream?  What could be better?  Nothing in my estimation!

This recipe is a little simpler than the one in the photo, but it’s no big deal to split the cake and the cream in two, add the strawberries to the center and garnish with a few more.

The girls can’t believe they have to wait until after dinner to have it!

Chocolate Strawberry Cream Cake

Chocolate Strawberry Cream Cake
Chocolate Cake:
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks of butter)unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1 tablespoon lemon juice and the rest milk to make 1/2 cup)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and dust with cocoa an 8 or 9-inch round cake pan.

In a medium bowl, cream butter and sugar together.  When incorporated, add the eggs one at a time and then add the vanilla extract.  Sift all dry ingredients together and add to the mixture alternating with the buttermilk, starting and ending with the flour mixture.

Pour into cake pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick poked into the center comes clean.  Cool for 10 minutes.

Strawberry Filling:
1 pound strawberries, washed, dried and stemmed
6 tablespoons sugar
pinch salt

Slice strawberries into 1/4-inch slices.  Combine all ingredients in a medium sized bowl and let sit 1 hour.

Cream Frosting:
4 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch salt
1 cup heavy cream

In a mixing bowl, whip the cream cheese and sugar together.  Add the vanilla and salt and then slowly add the heavy cream.  Increase the spead and whip until the mixture holds stiff peaks and the volume has doubled.

To assemble, place cake on a platter with a lip.  Spread the cream frosting over the cake and spoon strawberries and juice over top and.  Serve immediately.

Serves 8 to 16 people depending on the size of the slices.


Elderberries – Takes Me Back

Okay, these shrubs are huge.  When I think shrub, I imagine bushy, low to the ground, reachable… manageable even.  In contrast, the reality of my elderberry bushes are heading-to-the-sky enormous and this is only year three.  On the other hand, I have a huge amount of juicy, aubergine berries to go with my out-of-control shrubs.

With those berries, what will I make?  A perfectly balanced sweet and tart pie with a flaky, buttery crust?  Elderberry syrup for both our mile-high pancake stacks or our viral ailments during the winter months?  Gem-like elderberry jam or jelly for shockingly purple smoothies or homemade bread and butter?  Maybe all three given the amount of berries we have.

The tiny treasures that are elderberries pack a powerful punch in both flavor and health benefits.  My grandmother used to make pies and jams the recipes for which are both on the blog already.







On Air and At Sea with Lemon Yogurt Three-Grain Pancakes

Cameras and questions at the ready, Jackie Ward and Mike (the super fun camera guy, okay, Jackie’s super fun too) from the local NBC station, WCSH6’s the Morning Report, spent a morning with us in the galley, in the garden and then on the bay.  We had Lemon Yogurt Three-Grain Pancakes with Berry Syrup for breakfast and Asian tacos and spring rolls for lunch. We were especially relieved when the day turned out to be a gorgeous one and the sunny shots were easy to come by.  Thank you universe (and Jackie and Mike).

Here’s part one of two segments airing on WCSH’s Morning Report.  The second we’ll post when it airs.  If you are local, be sure to tune in between 6 and 7am tomorrow morning! This recipe also ran with the Maine Ingredient column in last week’s Portland Press Herald.


Multi-Grain Lemon Yogurt Pancakes with Fresh Berries

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rye flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup corn meal
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup yogurt
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest; zest from one lemon
3 tablespoons lemon juice; juice from one lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for the skillet

In a large bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients.  Make a well in the center and add all of the wet ingredients.  Mix well with a whisk starting in the center and working outward.  Mix only until just combined.  Let rest for 15 to 30 minutes.

Turn the oven on to warm.  Heat a large griddle or skillet over medium-high heat for several minutes.  Coat the griddle  with a small amount of butter and ladle the pancakes onto the griddle.  When the pancakes begin to bubble on one side, it’s time to flip them to the other side.  Cook until they are golden brown on both sides.  Transfer the first batch to the oven to keep warm and cook the second batch.  Serve immediately with fresh berries or a berry syrup.

Makes 12 pancakes

Fresh Berries with Lemon
2 cups mixed berries such as blueberries, raspberries and strawberries
(hulled and quartered)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice

In a small bowl combine all ingredients and set aside while the pancakes are cooking.  Serve immediately on top of the pancakes.

Raspberry, Strawberry Syrup
1 cup raspberries
1 cup strawberries, hulled and quartered
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the berries and the sugar in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil and boil for 5 to 10 minutes.  Remove from heat, add the vanilla and serve. Will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Makes 1 1/2 cups of syrup

Dawn’s Raspberry Squares

When E needs a little chocolate pick-me-up, this is one of the recipes she turns to.  I never knew.  Until last week.  The combination of buttery shortbread crust, tart raspberry jam, crisp almonds and rich chocolate is an unbeatable one.

Great, now I have another chocolate recipe to turn to as well.  Oh sigh, what’s another mile or two of running in the whole scheme of things?


Dawn’s Raspberry Squares
This recipe is inspired by Dawn, a former schooner chef, who got it from the Brown Bag a long while ago.  This is my own iteration of this deliciousness.

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
Pinch of salt
1 egg
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup raspberry jam
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9×13 pan with parchment paper.  In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together and then add the egg.  Mix until well incorporated.  Add the flour and mix using your fingers until the dough is a coarse crumble.  Transfer 2/3rds of the dough to the pan and press flat with your fingers.  Spread the jam evenly over the dough and then sprinkle the remaining dough over top of the jam.  Layer with the chocolate chips and then almonds.  Bake for 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown.  Cool in the pan and lift out before cutting.

Makes 24 squares

You’ll be happy you tried them

Spinach Smoothie – Green AND Tasty

A good friend of mine often shows up to our meetings together with her breakfast – a bright green drink so brilliant, it’s hard to know how she got it to be that green.  We are talking neon, nuclear green.   So one day, I asked her.  Spinach, she says, is the key, without the purple or red colored fruits which muddy the hue.  She then goes on to tell me that she adds kale, celery, cucumber and cilantro to her morning beverage.  I’m skeptical.  Until I try it.  It’s actually not that bad… and then I get used to it and it’s pretty good… and then I look forward to it.

There are mornings when I feel I’m drinking salad, but hey, I feel good, it tastes good and my pants like it too.  Win, win!  This one is one of my favorites and for more smoothies, click on over to the Maine Ingredient.

I’m not sure what I’ll do when we go sailing and the cord for the blender doesn’t reach the plug on shore.  Maybe Jon will rig up a human run generator where everyone can take a few spins around the deck while the blender is going and then we roll it up until the next morning.  Or maybe I’ll just have an apple for breakfast.


Spinach, Celery, Kiwi Smoothie
2 cups lightly packed spinach
5 ounces partially peeled cucumber; about 1/3 of a cucumber
1 stalk celery
1 peeled kiwi
1/2 ripe banana
1 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon raw honey

Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor and blend until completely combined and smooth.

Makes 3 cups

Salad, it’s what’s for breakfast