Monday, October 20, 2014

Blueberries

Blueberries for Sal is a children's picture book by Robert McCloskey. It was awarded the Caldecott Honor in 1949.

It is the story of a little girl Sal and her mother as they go out into the country to pick blueberries for winter, and a bear and his mother as they go to eat berries for winter from the other side of the same hill. Set in a small town in Maine this picture book piece uses a single dark blue color and block printing for the illustrations.
Sal and Sal's mother are modeled after McCloskey's wife, Peggy, and daughter, Sally.


One Morning in Maine is a picture book by Robert McCloskey set in Brooksville, Maine. It was awarded the Caldecott Honor in 1953.

The book gives a small slice of everyday life in Maine, where McCloskey and his family moved following World War II. Sal (also the heroine of McCloskey's Blueberries for Sal) finds she has a loose tooth and worries that she won't be able to go sailing with her father. She goes digging for clams and the tooth falls out. Eventually she gets an ice cream and her day turns out fine.

Robert McCloskey found inspiration for his writing right in his home state of Maine. While touring the New England region I found these classic children's books prominently placed in store windows and inside on shelves. I noted a sense of pride that the author was from their home state, Maine. Robert McCloskey also wrote Make Way for Ducklings. The setting for that book is Boston Public Gardens.

Our tour missed the key season for harvesting in Downeast Maine which occurred in August. I have been told that driving through the Wild Blueberry barrens, the thousands of acres of wild blueberries make for a beautiful landscape scene. The majority of the harvest is frozen within 24 hours for our enjoyment year round but nothing like plucking one straight from the bush. A wish for another time.  
July is blueberry month but these berries can be enjoyed all year round. They are delicious, versatile and healthy.

Blueberry Pie
Crust: Make your own crust or use prepared refrigerated crusts.
Filling: 
6 cups fresh blueberries, 2 tsp. lemon zest and 2 tsp. juice from one lemon, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 2 TB. tapioca, 1 tsp. butter
Directions: 
  • Preheat oven to 400 and adjust oven rack to lowest setting.
  • In saucepan place 3 cups blueberries and mash with a potato masher, cook stirring frequently till thickened, and mixture reduced to 1-1/2 cup about 7 minutes-cool slightly.
  • Add to cooked blueberry mixture the remaining blueberries, lemon zest, cinnamon, lemon juice, sugar, tapioca and pinch of salt.
  • Pour blueberry filling into bottom pie crust. Top with 1 tsp. of butter.
  • Place a top crust over filling, crimp strips of foil around edges of dough to prevent over browning.
  • Mix a little sugar and cinnamon together. Moisten crust with a little milk using a pastry brush and sprinkle cinnamon/sugar mixture over pie crust top. Make 4 large slits in pie for vents.
  • Bake 30 minutes @ 400 then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake about 10-15 minutes more or until juices bubble and crust is brown. Let pie set several hours before cutting.
Serve sauce over ice cream, cakes or pancakes 
Blueberry-Lemon Sauce: 
Ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons sugar 
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch 
  • 1 cup blueberries 
  • 1/2 cup water 
  • 1 tsp. grated lemon peel
  • 1-1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice 
  • optional 1 tsp. Grand Marnier
Directions:
  • Mix sugar and cornstarch in small saucepan, add in blueberries, water, lemon peel and lemon juice. 
  • Bring to boil on medium heat, stirring constantly and boil 1 minute. 
  • Remove from heat, add in Grand Marnier and cool.

Berry-Almond Cheesecake Tart
Crust
  • 1- 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
Filling
  • 2 (8 oz) pkg. cream cheese, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Topping
  • 2 cups strawberries, halved
  • 1-1/2 cups blueberries
  • 1/4 cup seedless raspberry preserves, melted
Directions:
  • Heat oven to 325F. Spray a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom with cooking spray.
  • Process graham crackers, cinnamon and sugar in food processor or blender. Mix in melted butter. Press crumb mixture into bottom and up sides of pan. A cheesecake pan can be used for this recipe.
  • Place prepared pan on a baking sheet and bake 10 minutes or until set. Cool on wire rack.
  • Process cream cheese, 2/3 cup sugar, eggs and flour in food processor for 30 seconds until smooth. Add in lemon juice, vanilla and almond extract. Process 15 seconds. Pour into baked crust.
  • Bake 25-minutes or until center is set when gently shaken. 
  • Remove tart from baking sheet and cool completely on wire rack. Refrigerate uncovered for 5 hours or overnight.
  • Remove outside of pan and arrange strawberries around tart. Fill in with blueberries. Gently brush berries with melted preserves. 
  • Store in refrigerator uncovered.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Coastal Maine Cuisine

Coastal Maine has breathtaking scenery with craggy shorelines and lots of lighthouses. To be exact fifty-seven active lights in the state. 
Coastal cooking finds its inspiration from the sea as well as poets, authors and artists. As a young boy, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow knew he wanted to become a poet. The beautiful scenery of the coastal city left an impact on young Longfellow and the waterfront served as the quiet escape for meditation . His responsive listening to the lapping of the waves and to the sighing of the wind in lofty pines inspired Longfellow to create beautiful poems enabling the rest of the world to share in these indescribable visions.
Longfellow and his second wife Fanny had five children. He was tender, devotional, and loving toward his children, and "The Children's Hour" is one of the poems Longfellow wrote depicting himself as their father, a poet. 

Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
That is known as the Children's Hour.
I hear in the chamber above me
The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
And voices soft and sweet.
From my study I see in the lamplight,
Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
And Edith with golden hair.
A whisper, and then a silence:
Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
To take me by surprise.
A sudden rush from the stairway,
A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
They enter my castle wall!
They climb up into my turret
O'er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
They seem to be everywhere.
They almost devour me with kisses,
Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!
Do you think, O blue-eyed  banditti
Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
Is not a match for you all!
I have you fast in my fortress,
And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
In the round-tower of my heart.
And there will I keep you forever,
Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
And moulder in dust away!
______________________________________
Our New England culinary adventures begin in the furthermost state of the region Maine. 
Lobster in any shape or form was a given on any menu as well as clam chowder.
There are countless varieties of clam chowder-the most popular New England Style and Manhattan Style. The label New England Style has come to mean that the chowder has a cream or dairy base while Manhattan Style refers to a tomato base. 

Repeat after me, “Chow-DAH!” That’s the way it should be said, if you are anywhere in the vicinity of New England, which is the birthplace of this wonderful clam stew. The word “chowder” is thought to have been derived from “chaudière”, an old French term for cauldron, or a big cooking pot. Traditionally chowder is made with salt pork, onions, potatoes, milk or cream, butter, and fish like cod or haddock, or clams dating back to the 1700s. Chowder is one of those things that is made in many different ways, and pretty much everyone thinks their way is best. It’s worth noting that the variations of this stew go back hundreds of years! 

Cook's notes: Most recipes call for using fresh clams but if you don't have access to fresh clams, you can use clam juice and canned chopped clams. Salt pork is traditional, it's like slab bacon that hasn't been smoked. You can easily substitute with bacon, or pancetta. The flour is a thickener. If you are cooking gluten-free or want a thinner consistency to your soup, leave it out. If you want a thicker soup, add more flour.

Makeover tip: Check sodium carefully on clam juice as it can vary dramatically between brands. Serves 4.
Clam Chowder
Ingredients:
  • 6 slices of bacon 
  • 2 cans each (6.5 oz.) clams-rinsed or 12 oz. fresh clam strips found at seafood counter 
  • 1 small onion chopped 
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced 
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped 
  • 1/3 cup flour 
  • 1-32 oz. chicken broth (low sodium) 
  • 1/3 cup white wine 
  • 1-(8 oz. ) bottle clam juice 
  • 3 cups diced raw red potatoes 
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • 1 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning 
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme 
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
Directions:
  • Cook bacon until crisp, set aside on a paper towel. 
  • Drain bacon fat and reserve 2 TB. in fry pan. 
  • Saute celery, onion, garlic cloves and celery. 
  • Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. 
  • Stir in broth, wine, clam juice, Old Bay Seasoning, thyme, bay leaf and cubed potatoes. 
  • Bring to boil and cover. Reduce heat and simmer stirring occasionally 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. 
  • Add in clams, bacon bits, heavy cream. Cook over low heat 8 minutes. 
  • Remove bay leaf and serve with oyster crackers 
Next posting: Blueberry picking in Maine. 



Saturday, October 18, 2014

Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies with Pistachios

When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I had built myself, on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and earned my living by the labor of my hands only. I lived there two years and two months. (Walden, 3)
by Henry D, Thoreau

With these words, Henry David Thoreau began the tale of his experiment of simple living at Walden Pond. Over the course of the next three hundred-odd pages, Thoreau outlined his philosophy of life, politics, and nature, laying the foundation for a secure place in the canon of great American writers. 
I did not actually see Walden Pond on my recent trip but I imagine it would look like this 
Today was our last hurrah taking a quick trip around the lake even though we had to wear winter attire for the ride.  Bella was on high alert as she searched the waters for wildlife. 
We spotted four loons who seemed lonely and lost (all the rest have left) swimming by a line of golden Tamaracks dotting the shores. 
_____________________________________________________








after baking a fall treat.

Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies with Pistachios
Ingredients:
  • 1 stick of butter and 1 stick of margarine
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2-1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups white chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries or cherries
  • 3/4 cup chopped pistachios or walnuts
Directions:
  • Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. 
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Beat butter and sugar until creamy and fluffy.
  • Add in eggs and vanilla beat until smooth.
  • In a separate bowl sift flour, salt and baking soda.
  • Beat flour mixture into egg mixture, stir in chips, cranberries/cherries and nuts.
  • Chill dough in refrigerator or freezer for one hour. 
  • Drop dough by rounded teaspoons on cookie sheet and bake 11-12 minutes.
  • Cool cookies on wire rack. 



Friday, October 17, 2014

The World According to Bella

I've been without a computer for over a week and it seemed like foreverrrrrrrrrrrr Mrs. S was on her trip. I really missed her. She always thinks up fun things to do plus I have lots to tell.  Mrs. S did not forget about me. Look what I got 
doggie treats both in my favorite flavor peanut butter. Since  I'm still supposed to be on a diet I ate one and am saving the other for tomorrow.
This week I got three letters. Each one filled with a few lo-cal peanut butter flavored snacks. Today another envelope arrived. It makes going to the mailbox lots of fun. I'm counting that makes 11 letters so far. Lucky me. 
I wanted you to know my story "I've Got Mail" was published in WWN. 
http://www.wwnrockport.com/2014/10/the-world-according-to-bella-ive-got.html
But the best part was three people sent me mail via WWN. Check out their comments.  
Love, Bella
___________________________________________

You'll never guess what household product (readily available in your pantry) will clean your stainless appliances,toaster, teapot, coffee pot. I tried it and it really works! 
Check this link out...I couldn't believe this one
http://bitzngiggles.com/2013/10/the-only-stainless-steel-appliance-cleaner-youll-ever-need.html

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Road to Concord to Lexington and Back to Boston


"Here in New England, the character is strong and unshakable."

Norman Rockwell
One of the challenges of a bus trip are some stops at  places of interest are brief. I REALLY wished we could have stopped and toured Louisa May Alcott's house where she wrote the book Little Women.  Unfortunately, all I got was a pictures taken from the bus.
I could have spent all afternoon at The Norman Rockwell Museum since there was so much to see. The museum is located on 36 scenic acres in the Berkshires of Western MA. Rockwell's original Stockbridge studio has been moved to the museum's property.
  








The Norman Rockwell Museum is the place to learn about the important and far reaching art forms. In addition to Rockwell's work there are changing exhibitions that explore illustration masters. 
Rockwell wanted his illustrations to tell a story. Norman Perceval Rockwell (February 3, 1894 – November 8, 1978) was a 20th-century American painter and illustrator. His works enjoy a broad popular appeal in the United States for their reflection of American culture. Rockwell is most famous for the cover illustrations of everyday life scenarios he created for The Saturday Evening Post for more than four decades. Among the best-known of Rockwell's works are the 'Four Freedom Series'. He is also noted for his 64 year relationship with the Boy Scouts of America producing covers for their publication Boys' Life, calendars, and other illustrations. Some of my favorites include these two paintings;
   
As guests exit they are encouraged to ring the bell if they enjoyed their visit.  
Time set aside for Concord and Lexington was quite short. So I mostly got pictures of well known areas.  History was made in this area when Minute Men set out to defend their homes and farms by challenging the British Redcoats in what would become the Battles of Lexington and Concord-the beginning of the American Revolution. 
Concord's North Bridge, the place where "the shot heard round the world was fired," is hallowed ground. 
In Concord. the homes of authors Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne have been maintained and are open to visitors. Walden Pond, the inspiration for Henry David Thoreau's "Walden" is as idyllic as it was 150 years ago.  
Lexington Battle Green 


Buckman Tavern 1710-Militia Headquarters 
A surprise discovery- check out this gravestone on the edge of the Battle Green. The soldier's last name is the same as mine. I need to do some research on this discovery. 
You can always find a knowledgeable person in a period costume on the Battle Green to answer your questions. 
Travel opens your eyes, soul and mind. It's not about seeing-it's about experiencing. 
Thanks for tagging along with me on my New England adventures. Next week Ever Ready postings will take you on a culinary journey back through places visited in the New England region.
  

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Meandering Through Vermont

The two lane road through Vermont is scenic as it winds through quaint little towns. 
The town of Bennington is where Robert Frost is buried alongside his first wife and son. 
People often ask: Why is Robert Frost buried in Bennington?
In 1920, Frost came to live in Shaftsbury, Vt., the next town north of Bennington on Historic Rte 7A. He said, “I mean to plant a new Garden of Eden with a thousand apple trees of some unforbidden variety.”
Frost lived with his family in Shaftsbury during the height of his career as a poet until 1938, when his wife Elinor suddenly died. Mrs. Frost had always wanted her ashes scattered at their old farm in Derry, New Hampshire. After her death, Frost traveled to the farm he had sold 25 years before, when he had written a little poem called On the Sale of My Farm, which ends as follows “It shall be no trespassing if I come again some spring in the grey disguise of years,seeking ache of memory here.”

But when Frost returned to Derry to make arrangements, he found the place was run down and the owner unwelcoming. Discouraged, he returned home telling his children it would be a sacrilege to leave her ashes there. His poem Directive speaks of "..a house that is no more a house upon a farm that is no more a farm" ''..the children's house of make believe some shattered dishes underneath a pine..Weep for what little things could make them glad.." The urn was placed on a closet shelf at the stone house in Shaftsbury. If things had gone differently in Derry, Frost surely would have been buried somewhere else. Frost took two years to think about where to establish a family burial place.

'I had a lover's quarrel with the world'

(quote on Frost's grave)
Robert Frost is buried in Old Bennington Cemetery (behind the Old First Congregational Church), Vermont. Frost gave his last poetry reading in Boston in December 1962. On the following day he underwent surgery but suffered a heart attack which led to his death on January 29th 1963.
The town of Weston, set in the Green Mountains is in Windsor County, Vermont. It was quite charming with businesses and homes decked out for fall. The population was 566 at 2010 census.  It is the home of the famous Vermont Country Store, a catalogue, retail, and online business, established in 1946 by Vrest and Ellen Orton. If you can't find what you need at the store 
then check out their catalogue. 
  






But it was the jaw dropping moment that drew some audible gasps when in a nearby apple orchard we saw   
 stunning autumn hues.











Outside of the Apple Barn and Country Bake Shop it was quite festive looking with a variety of pumpkins, mums and squashes. I never knew there were white albino pumpkins. Here we encountered another friendly moose with the map of Vermont painted on its back. 
Even the backyard had an autumn setting with scarecrows scattered all amongst the pumpkin patch.

Refueling the group with apples and apple cider doughnuts made the trip even sweeter.
A nice reminder sign in the orchard to appreciate each day.

Next stop and next posting Stockbridge, home of Norman Rockwell, artist studio and museum and the famous Red Lion Inn.

Vermonters sure do like their pumpkin decorations!