Fun Photo Friday – Pasta Party with a Valentine’s Day Theme

While Valentine’s Day can be just for lovers (xo to my husband), I also like the idea of spreading the love a little further – to friends, family, guests, and beyond.  This little photo essay is from a pasta party we hosted at the house last weekend for in-town and out-of-town guests.

Initially an auction item supporting Trekkers, an adventuring mentor group in which both girls are involved, the party became a celebration of food, friends, and Maine.  A guest of the Riggin bid on the party, Jon and I hosted, and we all ate and made merry.  What a wonderful afternoon.

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Annie
Love to you all

Five-Spice Snickerdoodles

So, Snickerdoodles, huh?  Comforting, homey, simple and… swanky when made with five-spice powder instead of simple cinnamon.  These are the grown up version.  The have-with-Darjeeling-tea version.  They are a taste of home with a party dress on.  I don’t often make cookies on the boat because they are touchy to do in a wood stove with lots of turning and watching, but I could be talked into it for these pretty gems.

SnickerdoodlesFive-Spice Snickerdoodles
Dough:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 eggs
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

To Roll:
1 tablespoon five-spice powder
2 tablespoons sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cream the sugar and butter; then add the eggs one at a time. Sift the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt and mix with the creamed mixture. It comes together nicely with a strong mixer, but if you are mixing with a wooden spoon, you may need to work it a little with your hands as the dough is fairly stiff. Mix the sugar and five-spice in a small bowl. Shape the dough into 1-inch balls and roll in the sugar and five-spice mixture to coat. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes.  Remove from baking sheet to cooling rack and store in an air-tight container.

Make 2 to 3 dozen

Sesame, Ginger and Tahini Chicken and Shrimp

Today I’m thinking about healthy choices – in what I eat, how I move, the interactions I have with my family – and the balance that is required to do these things well.

Greens AND brownies, running AND couch time, speaking my mind AND holding my tongue.  I want them all, just not in the same amount and at the same time.  The trick is to navigate when a brownie is just the thing (and these King Arthur Flour brownies are totally the thing) and when greens are a better choice.  Likewise with relationships, say, just hypothetically, when you are having a conversation with your daughter about future college and life plans when you are both hormonal.  Sometimes the healthiest choice is to say what you feel.  Other times, it’s best to not share exactly what is running through your mind in that specific moment.  When I’m navigating these moments successfully, which, let me tell you, is not always the case, I’m feeling my way to the best choice.  Calmly noticing.  Aware, but not hyper sensitive.

And, not to segue too abruptly to food, but actually, the same is true when I’m making a recipe.  I sort of feel my way to the right flavors.  In the same way that you might feel your way through a delicate conversation.  In this case, it’s a conversation with food and flavors.  This meal, the creamy AND limey, the greens AND rice, the chicken AND shrimp is one with balance.  One that walks the line of not too much sharing and not too much holding back.  I could have used a little more of that last night when in conversation with my daughter.  Ah well, at least I managed it in this meal.

SeasmeTahiniChickenSesame, Ginger and Tahini Chicken and Shrimp over Rice and a Bed of Spinach
This dish is just as easily made with chicken OR shrimp, but the combination of the two is my favorite.
Basmati Rice:
2 cups basmati rice
Salt

Sauce:
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup tahini
1 1/2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup diced onions; about 1 medium onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons minced ginger
8 ounces boneless chicken breast; about 1 large breast, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
8 ounces medium (41-50 count) raw shrimp, peeled
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup water, as needed
8 ounces baby spinach leaves

Garnish:
1/4 cup sesame seeds
Wedges of lime
Cilantro leaves
Sriracha

Rice:
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. The water should be as salted as you want your rice and no more. Add the rice and stir well. When the water again comes to a boil, set the timer for 18 minutes. Pour into a strainer and let sit for 5 minutes or longer while you prepare the sauce.

Sauce:
Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat and add the pumpkin seeds. Heat, stirring often, until the seeds begin to brown. Transfer to a blender and add the chicken stock, tahini and tamari. Blend until well mixed and smooth. Set aside. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté for 7 to 10 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Add the salt, garlic, ginger and chicken and sauté for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add the white wine and bring to a simmer. Add the shrimp and cook until you can just see a little bit of gray remaining. Add the pumpkin seed mixture and stir well adding water as needed to loosen the sauce. Serve immediately over rice and a bed of spinach. Garnish with sesame seeds, lime, cilantro, and Sriracha.

Serves 4 to 6

Annie
Finding the balance where I can.

Maine Seafood Chowder

Often times when I make chowder, I’m standing next to my hot cast iron wood stove (on our Maine windjammer) stirring at least a couple of pots, turning bread baking in the oven and prepping yet another baked good slatted for a future meal.  I think of how many pots of chowder have been made on wood stoves just like mine and the people these potages have nourished.

It’s a traditional meal that pulls musings of times past and almost demands the ritual of following in the footsteps of cooks that have gone before.

All sorts of chowder recipes abound in these parts, but most of them, while delicious, are not chowder in the book of old-time Mainers.  True chowder is milky, not thick, and is slightly thickened with either day old biscuits or oyster crackers (or saltines), not a roux (a flour and butter mixture).  In addition, true chowder contains salt pork, not bacon.  Always.  If either of these things are not in existence, then, I’ve been told, it’s not true Maine chowder, however yummy.

This recipe begins with the required salt pork, something fairly easy to come by in our local Maine butchers or even in the grocery store.  This salted, but not smoked, pig belly is the backbone of flavor for every traditional chowder one might concoct.  In addition, once the vegetables have sauteed and become soft, day-old biscuits are added – fairly early in the soup making process so they have ample time to soften and disintegrate, becoming indistinguishable and thickening the soup slightly.

Lastly, because I’m often making my chowder on the Riggin where I could be called away from the stove at any moment to drive the yawl boat, take the wheel, or tend to a guest, I use evaporated milk.  Evaporated milk doesn’t separate nearly as easily as straight milk when the heat is on for too long.  It’s a safety net for me and does add a bit of body and flavor to the soup as well.

Enjoy this nod to the food traditions of the past.  Who knows, maybe one of your ancestors made chowder for their people.

Maine Seafood Chowder Photo by Rocky Coast Photography

Maine Seafood Chowder
6 ounces salt pork
2 cups diced celery; about 3 stalks
2 cups diced onion; about 1 large onion
6 cups potatoes, peeled if need and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 day old biscuits or 6 saltines
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups clam juice
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 cans evaporated milk
1 pound haddock
1/4 pound 40-60 shrimp, shells removed and sliced in half
1 pound fresh clams, well-cleaned or 2 cups canned clams

Score the salt pork and place it scored side down in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. When the salt pork has rendered for 5 to 10 minutes, add the celery and the onions and sauté for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the potatoes and cook for another 10 minutes. Add the biscuits, salt, pepper, clam juice and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the biscuits have disintegrated and the potatoes are cooked through. Add the evaporated milk and bring to a simmer again. Lastly add the seafood and just cook through, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let the haddock finish cooking.

Serves 6 to 8

Annie
Headed off to make biscuits to go with AND into the chowder!

Knitting Retreat – Sheep to Shawl

We are sailing away to knit and laugh together and you should come!  Heather Kinne of Highland Handmades and I already got a good start on the laughing part when we filmed The Fiberista Files podcast together recently.

Hanging out on deck and knitting. Let's retreat together!
Hanging out on deck and knitting. Let’s retreat together!
Highland Handmade yarn by the fabulous Heather Kinne.
Highland Handmade yarn by the fabulous Heather Kinne.
Mim
Mim onboard the Riggin.

The Knitting Getaway is 4 days and 4 nights of a fiber experience with Mim Bird of Over the Rainbow Yarn (Rockland Maine’s LYS), Dyan Redick of Bittersweet Heritage Farm, and Heather Monroe Kinne of Highland Handmades as we follow the start-to-finish yarn process of shearing to spinning to knitting with handspun yarn.

We begin with a sheep shearing and skirting demonstration at Bittersweet Heritage Farm and wind up back at the Riggin for dinner at anchor.  Heather from Highland Handmades will also be joining the trip to lead a spinning demonstration where you’ll be able to spin your own fiber (roving and combtop provided) on a drop spindle. Mim Bird will be with us as well to help assess the yarn we’ve created and figure out how and what to knit with it.

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I mean could these wee ones be any cuter? Photo credit Bittersweet Heritage Farm
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Friends at Bittersweet Heritage Farm. Photo credit Bittersweet Heritage Farm

Your yarn and your project will be individual… and as relaxing or as type-A as you’d like.  This is a pretty special trip and all of the details are on the Riggin site.

Check out The Fiberista Files podcast with Heather and me! The knitting cruise part starts around 22:30.

Particulars:  June 8th – June 11th, $779 per person, all inclusive, 5% discount until Jan. 31st (10% for returning guests)

Annie
Getting my needles ready

Throwback Thursday – Bees Swarming

As I write this, the bees are quiet, not truly dormant, but somnolent and sleepy.  Waiting.  The hives are draped in black insulating plastic and surrounded by feet of snow and not a flower in sight.

But last summer, when the garden was in full flush and the blooms were abundant, the hive wisdom said to swarm.  Make a second queen, split, and create another hive to add to their numbers.

To see a hive swarm is to be in the midst of what feels like a maelstrom.  In truth, bees are as calm as they ever will be when they swarm.  Topped off with honey, surrounding their new queen, and off on an adventure.

We’ve never been quick enough to rehive the swarms, but were lucky to capture this one leaving on film.

Bee Swarm Still from video
Hive swarming.

 

Annie
Thankful they didn’t all swarm!  Their honey is fantastic.

Chocolate Cashew Pudding

My friend Glen, mentioned in the doughnut post, is often down in the galley in the wee morning hours when I’m making all the decisions about what we’ll be eating for the rest of the day.  I’ll often share out loud what I’m thinking because one, I know he likes to hear the winding road of my thought process, and two, I like to share with him because it helps me to hear, in my own words, what I’m thinking about. Somehow, when it’s outside of myself and in the space of the galley I’m able to see the big picture a little more clearly.

In any event, because I’m having these ‘out loud’ conversations, Glen gets a preview and many times an input.  Long before he talked me into doughnuts, he talked me into pudding.  Sure, it’s a pain to stand over the wood stove and stir it until it thickens, however, the creamy, sublime result is totally worth the effort.  This is one I just made up this summer and will have to share with Glen when he sails with us again.

Chocolate Cashew Pudding Photo by Rocky Coast Photography

Chocolate Cashew Pudding
For an extra rich dessert, serve with whipped cream on top and dusted with cocoa powder.

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate cut into small chunks
1/2 cup cashew butter

In a thick bottomed pot, combine the sugar, cornstarch, milk, and salt.  Bring to a full boil over medium heat whisking often to make sure the bottom doesn’t scorch.  Remove from heat and add the vanilla extract and then the chocolate.  Let the chocolate melt from the heat of the mixture, stirring occasionally until the chocolate is melted.  Add the cashew butter and again mix well.  Transfer to small serving bowls, cover with plastic wrap and chill.

Serves 4 to 6

Annie
Making all of the women in the household happy – the husband too, actually.

Lemon Curd Tarlets – Feeling Tart and Sunny

These little tartlets came about when working on a catering job for a winter dinner.  The whole affair was a cocktail party, so finger food was the name of the game, including the desserts.  Once topped with a berry – raspberry or blueberry – these beauties were perfect for a small bite confection.

Little lemon tarlets that will be topped with a raspberry garnish.
Little lemon tarlets that will be topped with a raspberry garnish.

Another favorite way to use lemon curd is in the Blizzard Bluberry Lemon Curd Roulade, which, as you might guess, was made on a snowy day last winter when the winds were slapping at the windows and doors.  Indoors was the only place fit for humans, except the occasional forays into the wild for a snow shoe or ski and then back inside for a warm cup around which to wrap the cold hands.

If I were to find myself with some leftover lemon curd, I might have several thoughts on what to do with it other than eat it straight from the spoon.  One, this is a perfect combination for my Nana’s Lemon Prune Cake.  Two, if you find yourself wishing for something elegant, layered in a wine glass with sliced strawberries and vanilla whipped cream would hook me right quick and in a hurry.  Three, I’ve been known to have it with some yogurt.  Hey, if Liberte brand yogurt can do it, so can I.

Lemon Curd
This recipe is inspired by “The New York Times Cookbook.”
4 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice; juice from about 2 lemons
2 tablespoons grated lemon rind; rind from about 2 lemons

Cream the butter and gradually beat in the sugar. Beat the eggs into the creamed mixture, then add the lemon juice and grated rind.

Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and cook over low heat, whisking continuously until mixture thickens and deepens in color. This must be cooked over low heat and stirred constantly to keep it from curdling. If desired, use a double boiler.

Press through a fine sieve into a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Makes about 2 cups

Tartlet Crust
This crust is extremely versatile and is one of my go-to recipes when creating tartlets or tarts that require a fairly structured crust.  It is inspired by Alice Medrich, author and pastry chef extraordinaire.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon homemade vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Press 1 tablespoon of dough into the bottom of two 12-hole muffin tins.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges begin to brown and the tartlet shells release from the tins easily.  Transfer to a grate to cool.  Fill with lemon curd when the shells are fully cooled.

Makes 24

Annie
Feeling tart and sunny