Wednesday, October 8, 2014


Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where others see nothing. ~Camille Pissarro
Our state is gorgeous. Get outside, enjoy summer, and take advantage of everything Maine has to offer.
These pictures were taken by my talented other half on Scopan Lake.

Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce

I need to start off by thanking whoever the Warden or Warden wife was who planted the rhubarb at this house. I have no idea who did it or when but I can't help but wonder how many families/residents of the house have put it to use. It's a beautiful little patch that we have gotten SO much use out of the last month. Jackson randomly comes inside with a stalk or two and asks me to make muffins. Pancakes, crepes, salads, cakes, and sauces have been flavored with the tasty perennial.
This morning it was 82 degrees before 8:30, and for that reason we have been cooking outside as much as possible. I've never made homemade BBQ sauce before so when I stumbled on this recipe for RHUBARB BBQ sauce I couldn't pass it up.
I love any food that is cooked in one pan and then pureed. It doesn't get any easier than that. Note on the recipe I omitted the strawberry jam because I wanted to use as much rhubarb as possible.
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Nothing better than fall of the bone BBQ ribs with that little bit of crispy char. Put extra napkins on the table...things get messy real quick!
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3 cups rhubarb, washed and cut into 1 inch pieces
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 cup ketchup
2 Tbsp maple syrup
3 Tbsp strawberry jam
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp chipotle chile in adobo sauce, chopped
1 Tbsp garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 tsp dijon mustard
Throw everything in a medium sized saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until rhubarb is very soft, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a blender (or use an immersion blender) and blend until smooth.
I prepared the ribs exactly like the recipe from http://www.handmadeintheheartland.com/2014/05/fall-off-bone-bbq-ribs-with-kc.html#more and added the rhubarb barbecue instead of the KC Masterpiece.

North Woods Garden Pests

Between the cat crapping in it, the chickens taking dust baths and snack breaks in it, and the soil being less than ideal, I thought for sure my first garden was doomed. I begged my husband to put some kind of fence around it to keep the animals out. After he did, it seemed to have solved the problem. Then a few days after I left the woods, this picture was sent to my phone.
Apparently the 2 foot tall wire fence didn't deter the moose from pissing in my garden. I don't think it hurt anything because there's lots of green popping up. My only problem? When I planted the garden I stuck popsicle sticks at the end of each row, marking what was planted where. The chickens, children, dogs, or cat threw the sticks every which way. I know where the beets and basil and lettuce are for sure...everything else? I guess we'll have to figure it out as we go along.
To my green thumb friends...other than building a much larger fence and a scarecrow, are there any secrets to keeping the moose out? Does the soap trick work?
Wish me luck. I think I need it!

Up North

Hello, friends!! It's been a while, but we are alive and well in the woods. The boys and I have been spending as much time as possible outside and I haven't had much desire to get on the computer to write.
We came back to Clayton Lake yesterday after a busy week in Downeast and Southern Maine. Although the food and quality time spent with my girlfriends in Portland was wonderful, I was ready to come back into the woods after a weekend in the city. City life fits like a glove for some but not for all and certainly not for me! Don't get disgusted with me for saying so. While I recognize it's not for me, I also know that I have friends and family who love it and are happy to call it home.
It takes all kinds of kinds. Some of us thought the North Pond hermit was crazy and then there were some of us who envied him for a minute. As we are nearing the one year mark of life in the woods, I am certainly one of the latter even more than I was when the story first came out.
When my wheels pointed North, I kept thinking of this poem I found a couple of weeks ago. It is perfect in every way. The only thing I don't like about it is that I'm not the author!

You'll know in your heart......
I know when I see a logging truck or the exit sign for 286 or the Irving in Oakfield that we are getting close. Continuing on 212 and eventually connecting to route 11. Then it's on to Ashland to pick up a pizza from the One Stop before we cross the Aroostook River. Once those wheels hit the dirt it's such a feeling of relief and peace.
Ten months ago on my 25th birthday that first 6 1/2 hour drive was the most dreaded and stressful ride of my life. It didn't take long for that dirt road to become nothing more than a long, LONG driveway that leads to home.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The littlest fisherman in the North Woods

A couple of days ago, Jackson and his Dad packed up the canoe for his first fishing outing at Clayton Lake. He was pretty successful in catching 4 brook trout all cast and reeled by himself!


He doesn't only love to catch the fish, he and his little brother love to eat them. There are probably only a handful of three year olds in this world who can say they've caught their own dinner.

Fishing is the topic of the month and probably will be for years to come. His favorite show right now is Animal Planet's River Monsters, and it has only accentuated typical fisherman story telling.

When outside, he can be found in the same spot turning over mounds of grass that the plow ripped up this winter, searching for worms. I never know what is going to be brought to me when he comes to the door. A handful of worms, a slug, a big chicken, a baby chicken, a dead woodcock, or small carcasses that he's found left over from winter. Those are a few of the pleasant surprises I've had this month. :)

I'm so thankful that he is content to be here. We are learning new things together. The names of different flowers, birds, fish, plants, and how to recognize the sound of a woodcock, grackle, gorby, bittern, and woodpecker.
10403097_789655857714251_1028108936272053242_n "....A northern Maine summer is really something to look forward to. We had in our front dooryard what thousands of city people would give a great deal to enjoy--a spot of woods that only a few sportsmen could have access to."
Helen Hamlin said it perfectly in Nine Mile Bridge. We are excited and thankful to be able to experience our first summer at Clayton Lake.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Fish and Forage: Fiddlehead risotto and pan fried brook trout

After a couple of 80 degree days a week or two ago, we have not seen much of the sun. So far, there are no signs of black flies and wishful thinking has me hoping that maybe they won't show this year! Foolish, I know. We've been taking full advantage of the warmer weather and getting outside every chance we get.

I love to fish but don't get to do it often with two wild ones to look after. I caught my first North Woods fish a couple of days ago at the Umsaskis thoroughfare. I was being critiqued by my husband for not using proper technique with the open face spinning reel, when BAM, all of a sudden I had a bite. The beautiful 13 inch brook trout hadn't seemed to mind my technique. :P

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After fishing, we started our fiddlehead exhibition. I've been tempted all week by beautiful photos of fiddlehead recipes on foodgawker. When I waitressed at Helen's Restaurant in Machias, tourists would ask for a description of the local vegetable. I always said they remind of something you might see in the swamp scene from Star Wars. The shape and detail of the coil like a vine that could release at a moment's notice and recoil around any of your limbs. They are one of the coolest vegetables, and I find it very exciting to be able to search for your vegetable in the woods!

We were surprised to find what seemed to be an overabundance along the shore of Umsaskis. After picking about three cups, we headed home. I posted a picture on Facebook to double check with a few fiddlehead experts before I started to clean and cook them. When someone mentioned that the stem should have a groove in it like on a piece of celery, we knew we had been mistaken.
After a little help from some folks who know these woods better than we do, we were pointed to a spot nearby where fiddleheads have been known to sprout. A little while later, my prince charming walked through the door with a hat full of gorgeous ostrich ferns.

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After a quick shake in a pillow case, rinse in the sink, and blanch session, they were ready to be added to the creamy risotto.

I didn't get a picture of the brook trout because the boys scarfed it down as an appetizer. :)

So thankful for the bounties the woods has to offer. Happy Friday, friends!
I use the risotto recipe that's in the Joy of Cooking cookbook!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Thirsty Moose

Yesterday was a gorgeous day up here in the woods, 67 degrees in the shade. Trucks are still not running and it is SO quiet. After lots of playtime with the wild creatures, I sat outside and read while they took their nap. I kept hearing a partridge drumming and wanted so badly to get a picture or a video. I walked up and down the road in front of the house trying to find it, but I couldn't tell where it was coming from.

After my failed photo opportunity, my better half showed up last night with these pictures on his camera. I know I'm going to be jealous when he passes me the camera with a smirk on his face and leaves the room. Jealous might be an understatement......

This guy stopped by the logging depot at Clayton lake for a sip of water.

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IMG_0313These are a couple of pictures of ticks on a moose who had been dead for a couple of days. Unfortunately, this is the end result for some after this long winter. IMG_0310

The refreshing warm weather has brought out several of these friendly faces this week. :)


Saturday, April 12, 2014

It's 10 O'Clock...Do you know where your milk is?

We have done pretty well with keeping our groceries stocked so far, keeping whatever we can't fit in the house, outside in a cooler. I would say that milk is our biggest issue. We just don't have enough space to keep it inside in the small propane fridge and with the freezers filled with moose and deer meat. With temperatures heating up during the day, we knew we needed to figure out something to keep the cooler consistently cold.

I thought it sounded like a good idea when my husband decided to bury it under the snow on the deck. That is, until I was the one to have to dig it out this morning for a thirsty toddler.

I walked outside and assumed that the shovel marked the exact spot where the cooler was. We still have a LOT of snow on our deck! The daily temperatures have softened the snow and then re-frozen
them at night, giving the top layer a lovely hard crust.

photo 1 (1)After digging for a few minutes...I finally saw the cooler! When I cleared enough away to open it....I grabbed the shovel again to clear out the inside.

photo 2

People have suggested that we stock up on dry and condensed milk. I'm not going there....and have come to the conclusion that we should probably get a goat.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Lazy Lady Bread

During the winter months we have seen ample amounts of blue jays, Cananda jays, crows, and ravens. Today, it was refreshing to see a couple of different feathered friends. The red winged black bird and common grackle stopped by for some bird seed. I tried my best to get a picture. I even hid in the blazer with the window rolled down like a crazy bird lady...waiting for them to land again. They didn't. It may have had something to do with the fact that I am as stealthy as an elephant with tap shoes on. It's truly a miracle that I've been able to get any pictures of wildlife so far! I'm not sure, maybe I get too excited and give off a little electric energy. Or maybe I'm just loud and careless. Most likely the latter.

Before I knew it, it was two o'clock and I had wasted all my free time bird watching. Dinner time creeps up on me every day and today was no different. I am a full time cook and baker to my three guys. We're quite limited when it comes to options for takeout or restaurant dinners or even a store to grab a frozen pizza. Question of the day...what's for dinner?

Luckily, last night at ten o'clock I decided to mix up a batch of lazy lady bread, more commonly known as no knead bread. If you are afraid of yeast....this is the bread for you. And if you are afraid of yeast, please don't be!

I remember my first couple of times working with yeast. I was so intimidated and got frustrated easily. Instant, active-dry, and rapid rise??? Yeast has a language all in it's own. I dove in...probably killing the yeast with too hot water, and nothing would rise. The next time I managed to conquer a flawless first rise only to be devastated by a collapsing second rise. I had no idea what was going wrong. Yeast is so fickle. Fickle and magical! It's a science, and I feel that there is no other thing that happens in my kitchen that is equally rewarding as fresh bread.

Get your hands dirty or your dough hook dirty, and start experimenting. I purposefully try to skip the bread isle when I'm shopping for Clayton Lake because I know that I will be forced to make it.

IMG_9421The reason I call this a lazy lady's bread is because you mix three ingredients, add some water, stir with a fork, and then let it work it's own magic in your kitchen for 12-18 hours. It ferments and stretches and rises and bubbles like a creepy creature on your counter. If you're busy, other bread recipes can get annoying with their time restraints. I love the hourly windows with no knead bread. You have to wait the twelve hours but after that, you have a six hour window in which you decide when to make that next step. It's all on your schedule!
After the second rise, it's dropped into a piping hot cast iron Dutch oven. You might feel panicky because nothing will feel right about how you get it into the pot. It will look sloppy and disastrous...but trust me. It will straighten out.
After 40 or so minutes......your masterpiece is finished!!!!

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Cracked and bubbled and holey in all the right places. And you know what those cracks and crevices are made for?
Little helper hands

After slow roasting in the oven for 45 minutes.....and mixed with creamy butter, the heavenly combination will sink into every nook and cranny. The perfect piece of bread that went along nicely with our fresh and hearty minestrone soup.

IMG_9462When this bread comes out of the oven, people might gasp. They'll think you spent all day in the kitchen kneading like a bread goddess. Not the case, but go ahead and let them think it! It's a classic that will stay in your recipe book.

There are lots of recipes for no knead bread but this is the one I have always used. http://www.williams-sonoma.com/recipe/rosemary-lemon-no-knead-bread.html I didn't have fresh rosemary so I went without additions today...but play around with them!
While bread may be beautiful to me, and I might get a little carried away in whimsical, dramatic tones. Bread means something completely different to my children.
To Jackson.........
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And to Andrew.........

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Improvise: Beautiful things happen when you are lacking

It's raining in the woods. A light mist and gray skies have brought a peaceful calm to the day. I've always been a lover of rain and have missed it this winter! I'm used to messy Downeast Maine winters where rain seems to frequent more than snow. Even though I've missed it, after my first winter in northern Maine I have come to appreciate the consistency of cold temperatures with very little to no mixes of precipitation.

Napping, snacking, snuggling, reading, baking, and EATING.....rainy days are made of these and they are a few of my favorite things! Jackson on the other hand, thinks of one thing and that is his play time outside. At 45 degrees, things are a little too warm for snow pants so we are thankful for his big cousin's hand-me-down rain suit. :)

Foodgawking is another favorite rainy day activity (or any day activity) of mine. If you've never been to foodgawker.com then you are MISSING OUT. Gorgeous professional pictures of every food you could ever imagine will take over your computer screen teasing you with each scroll of the mouse. They say to never go grocery shopping when you are hungry. I say the same about Foodgawker.  Never browse when you are hungry...it's just torture. If you're trying to be good...there is a "No Desserts" button. But honestly, don't click on it. You will miss out on some of the most mouth watering looking treats. So beautiful that sometimes it makes me want to cry. I believe that food is an art, and Foodgawker combines that art with the art of photography. In the words of Martha Stewart, "It's a really really good thing". :)

When the weather is yucky, I want to cook and bake and I want to eat. When I logged onto Foodgawker earlier today, I had every intention of focusing on a dinner plan. But out of no where.....BAM.....this picture of perfection caught my eye. A coconut shortbread cookie with a little crater of CARAMEL in the middle. Saints behold!!! The search for dinner was going to have to wait.

Now, in my baking opinion, more butter usually means that it will probably taste better. When I clicked on the picture and it took me to the recipe....the first thing line of ingredients read: 3 sticks of unsalted butter. Sold.
The recipe went smoothly until I ran out of caramel. I knew I was going to run out because I only had part of a bag. I could have made some more the homemade way...but I didn't feel like it. I started thinking about something else I could put in the crater of a coconut cookie. I felt like the father on the movie The Croods.....IIIIIII HAVE AN IDEAAAAA!!! Really it's not that much of a revelation. It's more of a given.....it pairs well with most everything....chocolate! Not just any chocolate....chocolate ganache....and not just chocolate ganache.....chocolate ganache with COCONUT RUM!!!
Perfection if I do say so myself.

 Similar to a Samoa....but homemade and ten times better.

 If dinner doesn't get made....at least we know we have these to fall back on!
Hop on over to The Sweets Life for the recipe. Enjoy!