bake, cook, hike, eat

Sunday was beautiful, we knew we wanted to be outdoors, but what to do? We also knew we didn’t want to drive far, we didn’t want to spend any money and we wanted to do something different.  So, we decided to take a hike, locally, and we’re so glad we did. It was a trail we’ve been meaning to hike, but just hadn’t yet – today was the perfect day. We live on the tip of a peninsula, in Maine. This peninsula has taken land conservation seriously, thankfully a lot of Maine has… there are miles of scenic and varied hikes here and the beaches are incredible…yet, so are the insects. This is the best time of year to go hiking/walking in the woods, the issue of ticks and mosquitos has waned, the weather is crisp, the light is low and lovely, yet you want to go on a Sunday – it’s hunting season right now…neon orange is a must any other day of the week; Sundays are no hunting days, it’s the law, thus it’s the best day to go for a walk in the woods…so that’s what we did.

But what to make for dinner before we head out?

It’s not as though we can just go out and ‘grab’ something to eat, (there is nowhere to go for 20 miles – at least this time of year) plus, it would just be nice to come home to dinner already prepared… So what to make was the question? Utilize what we have was the only answer. Decision – go with simple comfort food – crispy corn bread in a skillet (if you don’t have a cast iron skillet, then a 9 1/2″ round baking pan may be substituted) and spicy red bean chili. 

Both can be quickly re-heated, the perfect solution after a long day out and about.

Want to know how? It’s pretty easy and you can substitute/increase/decrease ingredients according to needs. Here you go;

Spicy red bean chili

1 large onion

1-2 cloves garlic

2 cups kidney beans (freshly cooked or canned)

2 cups carrots

1 cup celery

2 cups corn (thawed frozen works well)

1 32 oz. can crushed tomatoes

1 fresh tomato

1-2 cups fresh greens (swiss chard or spinach)

1 teaspoon chipotle powder

2-3 tablespoon fiesta chili powder or mix cumin, ancho cilii, coriander, and oregano

1/2 +/- cup vegetable/chicken stock

salt to taste

dash of butter

Variations – add one or more of the following; red and green peppers, jalepeneos, cooked beef (organic or local if you can), diced potatoes, black beans, cannelloni beans, shredded pork (organic or local if you can)…go wild. Play with the spices – make it more hot or not.

What to do; Chop onion, garlic, carrots, celery, tomato and greens. Saute onions until translucent, add garlic, carrots, celery.

Add greens and tomato.

Add a dash of butter and then spice.

Mix briefly. Lower heat and add crushed tomatoes, beans and stock.


Add salt to taste. Adjust seasonings. Simmer till all is blended. Meanwhile get the cornbread going…

Crispy cornbread in a skillet

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal (organic if you can)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
2 beaten eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup melted butter ( I know!)

In a large bowl mix together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

Add butter to a 10-inch cast iron skillet

Place the skillet in a 400F degree oven for about 3 minutes or until the butter is nearly all melted. Remove skillet from oven – be sure to remember to use a rag or oven mitt – and swirl butter in pan to coat sides and bottom of pan.

Then, in a small bowl combine eggs (beaten), milk, and melted butter.

Add egg mixture all at once to dry mixture. Stir until just moistened.

Pour batter into hot skillet.

Bake for 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve warm – it’s the best this way!

Top chili with sour cream, plain yogurt, freshly grated parmesan or goat cheese and freshly diced herbs – parsley, cilantro,  or chives…
The fun thing with this combo is that so many things can be added or substituted – use what you have and substitute for what you don’t.


What’s your favorite comfort food?

not sure what to do with all those apples? bake a pie…

The other day I decided it was time to use up the last few pounds of apples from our picking adventure a few weeks ago –  wasting food is such a crime in my eyes – so what to do? Make pie!  I’ve made pies before, but I’ve never made apple – odd, I know.  I thought I’d make one pie to eat right away, and one to freeze. We’ll see how the frozen one works out when my friend visits in a few weeks…I’ve realized, apple pie is pretty easy, once you’ve made the crust and peeled the apples…ha ha, I know, but it’s true.

Despite all the peeling – I will certainly make this pie again. It’s delicious and really quite easy if you either pre-make (and freeze or keep in fridge) the crusts or buy pre-made crust. I personally can’t bring myself to buy a crust. I am usually outraged with the ingredients or it seems when the ingredients are actual food, then the price is more than what I am wanting to pay…so, I make my own. I’d rather do without than settle. It’s really not as challenging as you may think…
I don’t use a pastry blender/knife or two knives, I just use my fingers. I realize this may bother other pastry bakers, as your not supposed to ‘handle’ the dough a lot – but it works for me. I like the outcome, as does Michael and Finn. So why not try? Want a simple recipe? See here.
Back to the pie. Yes, it really is simple. Make the crusts in advance. I made mine two days in advance, wrapped them in wax paper, and then refrigerated (dough can also be frozen). Assemble the ingredients;

apples, cinnamon, sugar, nutmeg, flour, lemon juice and crusts. If your crusts are frozen, be sure to thaw them the day before in the fridge. When stored in fridge, take out a few hours ahead of time to allow to soften – but not too much. Length of time depends on your climate…Roll (both crusts), peel (apples), mix (spices and apples), top (with second crust), bake. Pie is ready.

Now if you’d like a bit more of the specifics here you go;
2 pie crusts (one for the bottom, one for the top)
6 cups thinly sliced, peeled pie apples (I used cortland and macintosh) = roughly about 2.5 lbs.
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup raisins or chopped walnuts (optional)

Prepare and roll pastry. Line a 9″ pie plate with one pastry (crust). Set the other aside.

Slice apples (help with this task really speeds up the process – or an apple peeler/corer).

Place in large bowl. Sprinkle apples with lemon juice, toss.

Mix together sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour over apples. Toss and coat.

Transfer apple mixture to the pastry-lined pie plate.

Cut slits in remaining pastry; place over apple filling and seal. Crimp edges as desired; I’m not too fussy about this part, mine aways end up with a rustic homemade look – I’m ok with that, in fact, I like it – it tastes just as lovely as one with perfectly crimped edges.

Bake in 375 degree oven for 50-60 minutes. To prevent overbrowning, loosely cover edge of pie for the first 25 minutes, then remove foil for the final 25-30 minutes. Bake until top is golden.

Cool on rack.

The recipe calls for the pie to cool completely before serving, but I like mine a bit warm…serve as you wish. Top with fresh cream or vanilla ice cream.

Here’s a few more ideas for fresh apples – apple cake, apples with peanut butter, apple crisp and caramel apples.

What’s your favorite apple recipe?

apple picking in New Zealand and Maine

Apples. Love ’em. Especially this time of year. The smell of apples, fallen leaves, wearing boots and sweaters and feeling the crisp air is just lovely this time of year…the last time I had picked apples was a little over 10 years ago – in New Zealand. Now, my most recent apple picking experience – this past weekend, in Maine – was vastly different than my last apple picking experience, in New Zealand.

Michael and I visited New Zealand while on our ’round the world trip. We stayed for four months. We camped, hiked, fished, visited thrift shops, bought a car, met some amazing people and drove all over the entire country – both the North and South Islands. While there, we did what a lot of travelers do, we looked for work. We were in the middle of our year + long travel trip and wanted to keep our ‘kitty’ afloat as well as have some for when we arrived back ‘home’ – wherever that was to be…so we worked along the way. We were in New Zealand during their apple season; we had heard about the prospect of apple picking and had met quite a few people who had done apple picking themselves and made suggestions as to where to do it. So we did. (photo of a photo of our tractor while in New Zealand – each pair of pickers had their own tractor, this was ours)

We found a beautiful orchard with lovely owners and the job allowed us to live on the property (for a small weekly fee) in a one room studio. It was hard work. Up at sunrise, pick, pick, pick, drop off at sunset, eat, rest, sleep. Four weeks we picked. I gained a whole new appreciation for apples. Apple picking for profit and apple picking for pleasure are entirely different experiences…

This past weekends’ experience was for pleasure, Michael, Finn and I went apple picking.

You choose a wagon, a bag and go out into the orchard.

Pick, pick, pick till your hearts content.

We ended up with 19 pounds of apples – that’s a lot of apples – nothing compared to what Michael and I would pick on a daily basis in NZ, but a lot for three people to eat nonetheless.  Now, I know – apple pie, apple sauce, apple bread, apple crisp, baked apples, caramel apples – but there’s only so much time in my day, so I’ve decided to make pies (and freeze) and apple crisp. I have the best recipe for apple crisp. Really. I found it in a cookbook given to me by my grandmother, 12 years ago. It’s a cookbook created by and for the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary; titled, Savoring Cape Cod.

This recipe can also be used for blueberry crisp, raspberry crisp and a combination thereof. It’s quick, delicious and easy. Top with a bit of fresh creme and or vanilla ice cream and well, your in heaven…

Apple Crisp

5-6 apples (any god pie apple) – peeled and sliced. I used Cortland and Macintosh.

1 cup flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 egg, beaten

1 stick butter (1/2 cup), melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 9″ X 13″ baking pan.

Spread apples in pan.

Blend dry ingredients. Add egg and melted butter. Mix until dry ingredients are moistened.

Pat mixture over apples.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until top is browned.










coffee and cake, need I say more?

Coffeecake. I can’t remember the last time I baked one or ate one for that matter…but last weekend, I thought, ‘I’d like to bake a coffeecake’ (thus eat some), so I (we – Finn and I) did. It was delicious. I also realized it’s good for a crowd – it makes a substantial amount, 12-16 servings. Perfect for a brunch or as a light dessert for a dinner party – drizzle with heated, melted chocolate and freshly whipped cream – or simply enjoy on a crisp Saturday morning, coffee in hand, with nothing to do…

I found it in a cookbook titled; Joy of Cooking, All About Breakfast & Brunch, by Irma S. Rombaur, Marion Rombauer Becker, Ethan Becker

This was the first time I tried this recipe – I loved it – see what you think.

Yogurt Coffeecake

Prepare and set aside streusel topping.

Streusel Topping

Blend the following with a fork or or pulse in a food processor until mixture resembles coarse crumbs – (I just used my hands);

2/3 cup flour (I used white wheat)

2/3 cup chopped walnuts (recipe calls for finely chopped, I prefer chopped – you choose)

2/3 cup packed light brown sugar

5 tablespoons butter, melted (recipe calls for unsalted butter, I didn’t have that, so I substituted salted butter)

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. salt

Have all your ingredients at room temperature (I didn’t do this – I didn’t want to wait for things to come to room temp. – you decide) Position a rack in the lower third of the over. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13 X 9 X 2 – inch pan.

 Whisk together thoroughly;

2 cups flour (it calls for all-purpose – I used white wheat)

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1.2 tsp. salt

Combine in another bowl and set aside;

1 1/4 cups yogurt (sour cream can be substituted)

1 tsp. vanilla

 In a large bowl, beat on high speed until lightened in texture, 3-4 minutes;

4 tablespoons unsalted butter (again, I used salted, no problems) – here, it is easier if you use room temp. butter – I didn’t, but will in future.

1 cup sugar

Beat in 1 at a time;

2 large eggs

Add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with yogurt mixture in 2 parts, beating on low speed or stirring until smooth and scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle with the streusel. Bake until toothpick inserted (or knife, as I use) in the center comes out clean – about 25-30 minutes. Let cool briefly in the pan on a rack.

Serve warm.


Fun fact. The cookbook, the baking pan, the cooling rack, the dish and mug are all from, the ‘dump.‘ The Laguiole knife, I actually purchased.

Don’t think you need high tech gadgets or the ‘best of the best’ to bake, cook or prepare any meal – you only need some basic tools (a lot of second hand stuff rocks) – and a willingness to try.


yummy yummy graham crackers

Earlier this year I had been searching for a cook book which offered recipes for the ‘basics’ (crackers, mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, butter, ricotta, olives) as well as a few simple pleasures like homemade graham crackers, marshmallows, gravlox, juice pops, jam…well, I found it.

I am so looking forward to going through this book, recipe, by recipe…Check out the recipe for graham crackers (I also included my personal side notes) below – they were so good! Definitely worth the time commitment – especially when you envision them on either side of a homemade marshmallow (recipe to try next!) topped with a slab of chocolate; S’mores anyone?

Try them yourself…                    



1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/3 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup black strap  molasses

1/3 cup plus 4 tablespoons sugar

1/4 whole milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small bowl or food processor, mix or pulse the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, salt, and baking powder. Cut in the butter or if using a food processor, add the butter and pulse until the dough is the consistency of course crumbs.

Add the honey, molasses, and the 1/3 cup sugar and combine. Then add the milk and vanilla, bringing it all together into a stiff dough. (at first I didn’t think it would turn into ‘dough’ because it seemed dry, but it does, beautifully…)

Lightly oil 2 baking sheets. (I used butter). On a work surface, cut the dough in half. Shape the first half into a rectangle and place in the center of a sheet of parchment paper.

Lay another sheet of parchment paper over the dough. Roll, trying to keep the dough as rectangular as possible -not as simple as it sounds – But worth the effort…

The dough should be 1/4 inch thick and about 12 by 15 inches. I actually measured the dough the first time I made these, in the end I felt they were too thick for my liking. Next time, I will just use my eyes and intuition. See what works for you. Thinner the better I think.

Lightly prick the dough all over with the tines of a fork. Sprinkle evenly with 2 tablespoons of the sugar and roll the sugar gently into the top of the dough with a floured pin. I experimented with the two batches – one I sprinkled sugar on, the other, I didn’t. I originally thought, “really more sugar?”, but in the end I did prefer the texture of the batch with the added sugar and I will add it again. It also adds to the crackers’ overall appearance.

Using a knife or fluted pastry cutter – depending on your preferred aesthetic – trim the edges of the dough rectangle to yield neatly shaped crackers – or not. Cut into approximately 3-inch squares. Using a spatula, carefully transfer the crackers to the prepared baking sheets, leaving just a little space between. Repeat process with the second half of the dough. Freeze the crackers for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake the chilled dough for 18-22 minutes, until just a little browned at the edges. Cool completely and enjoy.

HOW TO STORE – Store in an airtight container, up to 2 weeks. You can also freeze crackers for 2 months, allowing 2 hours to thaw before eating.

Do you have a favorite treat you make from scratch? If so, I’d love to know the recipe.


Super simple chocolate cake

I came across this recipe a few years ago and I am so glad I did.  It’s deliciously decadent and very easy to prepare. From start to oven it only takes about 10 minutes – there’s no reason anyone should ever buy a chocolate boxed cake mix again! Who needs all those additives and preservatives anyway? Try it yourself.

Prepare oven and pans. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour average round cake pans; set aside.

Deliciously Decadent Chocolate Cake

1 cup buttermilk                                                                                                                            1 cup water                                                                                                                                   2/3 cup cooking oil                                                                                                                  2 cups sugar                                                                                                                                2 eggs                                                                                                                                          1 tsp. baking soda                                                                                                                   1/2 tsp. salt                                                                                                                                  2 cups flour                                                                                                                               3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Combine in an extra large mixing bowl buttermilk, water, oil, sugar, eggs, baking soda, and salt. Use large wire whisk, whisk until well combined. Add all flour and cocoa powder; whisk vigorously until smooth. Divide batter between pans.

Bake for 30-35 minutes – until the top springs back when lightly touched. Cool in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely.


1/2  whipping cream

Whip cream in mixer (or by hand) until slightly stiff. Spread over the top of the first layer of cake,  then top with second layer of cake.                                                                                   * I also like to spread this filling while the cake is still slightly warm; it causes the whipped cream to slightly melt into the cake itself making it that much more moist…I then serve each slice with just a smidgen more of the freshly whipped cream – why not?

Chocolate Ganache Glaze

1/2 cup whipping cream                                                                                                              4 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped

In a saucepan bring whipping cream just to boiling over medium to high heat. Remove from heat – add chocolate – do not stir. Let stand 5 minutes – then stir until smooth…cool 15 minutes or until slightly thickened. Pour over cake, allowing it to drip down the sides – pour in middle and it will naturally flow over sides…Chill until set, about 30 minutes or so.

Slice and serve with a bit of freshly whipped cream and fresh fruit, chopped nuts or simply by itself. Yum. Let me know what you think!