Organize. Budget. Plan. Diet. What a perfect time of year to focus on getting organized and tidy in one or more areas, such as, ahem, my closets. But closets are for another day. Today is about the freezer. I’m not really a New Year’s resolution sort of gal, but I do like this time of year for checking in about my habits and making sure that I’ve got a good handle on the life I’m choosing by the choices I’m making. And while the garden is asleep and the winds whip and roar outside, it feels satisfying to turn my attention toward the house and our inside life.
One of the things I focused on last year around this time was our food waste. And while the compost pile is always ready and willing to receive any and all organic matter, I wanted to get even better at consuming our food before it headed to the big pile out back. I already had a handle on rotating stock in the fridge, using up pantry items, and having a pretty good plan for leftovers and little bits. I’ve written about good strategies for leftovers before and will be sharing more as we go along this winter.
The freezer, however, was another story. You know, that place that we relegate unused food, wait until it has freezer burn, and then a year later throw the unlabled and unknown mystery items into the compost pile? Might as well be Siberia. Yup. That’s the thing I wanted to be better at. So I’ve come up with a couple of strategies – all of which I knew and none of which I did much of until last year.
All of the changes I made were fairly small and didn’t take much doing, but the biggest of all was labeling everything that went into the freezer.
Basically, if I don’t label, I may as well just skip the freezer and toss everything in to the compost bucket straight off. Once something goes into the freezer without a label, it’s never coming out as something useful. Why not? Because I NEVER remember what the thing is. I always tell myself I will. But I don’t. Because it get moved around. Because once it’s frozen it doesn’t look exactly as it did when I first put it in there. Because I can’t smell it to figure out what it is. Because I can’t taste it to figure out what it is. Because. Just. Label.
Once I gave in to the idea that my intellectual prowess was not strong enough to overcome the freezer vortex, I started to love opening the freezer. A year later it’s even more organized than it was initially and it’s something I use all the time, not a place to relegate unmentionables.
To make things easy, because who has time for anything else, here are a few tips:
- Make up labels ahead of time, so all you need to do is write and slap
- Store the labels and pen in the kitchen somewhere close
- Use a waterproof pen or marker, not a gel pen that will smear if it gets wet
- Label the top of the lids for a bottom or chest freezer and the side of the containers for a top freezer so you can see the label easily
- Date everything
More to come in this series – stay tuned!
Sunday will surely see me on the couch with a wide perimeter given by my family (football viewing is an active sport for some). Before the big day, though, I’ll do some prep work so that we can all snack and graze while I watch. May the best team win!
Appetizer Menu for Super Bowl Sunday
Rosemary Cheese with Apricot Preserves
Baked Brie variations
Tomato, Dill, and Fontina Tartlet
Potato Skins with Artichokes and Fontina
Steamed Artichokes with Honey and Curry Yogurt Dip
Endive with Green Pea Hummus
Steamed Artichokes with Honey and Curry Yogurt Dip
When you trim artichokes immediately rubbing them with lemon juice can help keep them from turning brown.For those new to artichoke eating, break the leaves off of the artichoke and use your teeth to gently scrape the meat on the inside of the leaf. Discard the leaf. Once the leaves are gone, use a spoon to remove the choke (the fuzzy part) and enjoy the artichoke bottom.
2 artichokes, leaves and stems trimmed
1/2 lemon (plus extra for rubbing)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Cover 2 artichokes with water in a small saucepan or stockpot large enough to accommodate. Add the lemon and salt. Bring the water to a boil with the cover on and reduce heat to a simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Drain upside down. Serve warm or chilled with the Honey and Curry Yogurt Dip.
Honey and Curry Yogurt Dip
The curry flavor will increase the longer you let it sit.
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
4 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon curry powder (or less)
several pinches of kosher salt
Combine all ingredients. Refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
Makes 1 cup
Let’s have some fun rooting for our teams! Go Pats!
It was one of the best seasons in our 21 years of owning the Riggin, filled with moments that we want to absorb deeply so that as winter settles in, we can unpack and relive them one by one.
Many of our evenings are spent under the darkening sky scattered with millions of twinkling stars and singing harmony with the girls to Jon’s guitar. One night, after music, someone pointed to this strange color in the night sky. It took us but a second to realize that it was aurora borealis, a phenomenon of electrons and light, which magically lit up the night sky.
So many beautiful lobster bakes were shared while sitting on the beach looking out at pine-studded islands, digging feet into the sand, splashing toes in the chilly briny Maine water and feasting on the freshest Maine lobster ever.
Whales! For the first time in over a decade, we saw whales in Penobscot Bay. For some time, we’ve yearned for sightings like we used to have and were blessed this summer. It gives us hope that the bay is changing for the good….
Every Race Week is special, but this year’s was one for the books. Even as we started the race, we were at the head of the pack. After a full day of tacking and strategizing, we were in the last leg and just under the hills of Rockport off Indian Head Light. The wind had died at this point to a whiff, and we were all yearning for the forecast 15 knots. With only two vessels in front of us, we saw wind begin to skim the surface of the water. Seconds later, they began to heal and then heal hard. And the wind was upon us. The Riggin gently healed over and when the physics of the sails began to dominate, she started to move forward and pick up speed. The wind drove her with such purpose as we went from a relaxed, everyday sail to a thrilling chase that had us pulling ahead of one of the two vessels. The Riggin finished 2nd in her class and overall! What a moment!
As always, it is a blessing to spend our summers with you all. We hope that this letter finds you all in the peak of health, in the throes of happy, and surrounded by the love of your family (chosen or given).
Full of blessings
As anyone who has sailed with us knows, Kitchen Aides and Cuisinarts are not a part of my tool kit on the Riggin. They require electricity, something I don’t have in my galley. What I do have is good, old-fashioned muscle and technique. I use very basic tools to make very special baked goods and I don’t need a lot to accomplish this.
Also, because I have limited space, the tools I do have on the boat need to be ones that I use all the time or they need to do more than one task. Here’s my list of tools that I wouldn’t go sailing without and that might spark an idea or two for the baker in your life, whether they bake on dry land or on the water.
My three favorite stores for baking and cooking tools are: The Good Table, Now You’re Cooking, and King Arthur Flour. All are wonderful, local stores with a well-curated supply of useful baking tools.
Sifter – While a whisk will work for this task, there’s nothing that works better for making light, fluffy cakes.
Scale – The best bakers weigh all of their ingredients. If nothing else, sometimes a recipe calls for a weighed amount and not a measured amount. Super helpful.
Thermometer – All baking is about details and precision. Don’t over or under bake anything again by removing it from the heat at just the right temperature.
Parchment paper – A gift from the non-stick gods. Lining cake pans and cookies sheets with parchment or with a silicone sheet helps with the least favorite part of baking – the clean up!
Whisk – Just don’t try a baking life without one. Great for thin batters, egg whites, and whipped cream, but a whisk will also work as a sifter in a pinch. Just not for those super fluffy genoise cakes and such.
Rolling pin – Wooden ones are my favorite. With or without handles, this is an essential piece of any bakers arsenal.
Pastry bag – At some point you’ll want to try your hand at pate au choux or decorating a cake. The professional way to go is with a pastry bag and at least a few basic pastry tips.
Cookie scoop – Bake cookies that are all the same size by scooping them with this cookie scoop. It makes the process go so much faster too.
Pastry knife – For making biscuits and pie crust, this tool is essential. There isn’t a day on the boat that goes by where I don’t use this handy tool.
Bench scraper – Bread bakers, pie bakers, biscuit bakers and basically anyone who gets dough on the counter for any reason will love this tool. Again, I use it on a daily basis.
Cooling rack – While this is one tool that I don’t have space for on the Riggin, I do use them at home all the time, and there I almost never have enough. 🙂
Also, doesn’t it go without saying that every baker (and cook) should have cookbooks that they love and trust (like Sugar & Salt and At Home, At Sea)?
The windows are slightly foggy in the corners and the house is filled with the redolent smells of baking chocolate, toasted coconut, and warm pecans. Right now, there might not be anything more tempting. All the while outside, the wind howls and the snow pelts the side of the house. Occasionally, a large mound of snow will slide off the roof to announce itself and inside, we are warm and cozy, baking one of our many holiday gifts. Later, when the wind dies down, I’ll go for a snow shoe in the field out back. If it’s really late, I’ll cross my fingers the sky is clear and the moon lights the way. Moments like these have me feeling grateful for family, warmth, small houses, little things, rosy cheeks, and Maine winters.
White Chocolate, Cranberry, and Pecan Bars
We also called these Everything-But-the-Kitchen-Sink Bars. They first appeared in At Home, At Sea: Recipes from a Maine Windjammer and this is a riff on that original recipe.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted (plus a little extra for the pan)
2 cups crushed vanilla wafers or graham crackers
2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
6 ounces shaved white chocolate or white chocolate chips; about 1 1/4 cup
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
Preheat oven to 300°F. Spread the coconut in a 9- x 13-inch pan and toast for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring two or three times. In a medium bowl, combine the graham crackers, melted butter, and toasted coconut. Lightly butter the 9- x 13-inch pan and then transfer the mixture, pressing firmly with your hands to pack evenly. Turn the oven temperature up to 325°F. Chill the pan for 15 minutes and then bake for 10 minutes or until it begins to turn golden.
Remove from oven and sprinkle the chocolate, cranberries, and pecans over the crust. Drizzle the sweetened condensed milk over all and bake for another 30 to 35 minutes or until the center begins to bubble just slightly.
Let cool on a wire rack and cut into 12 or 24 even pieces.
Makes 12 or 24 bars
P.S. Cookbooks make a wonderful holiday gift. Just saying.
Thanksgiving dinner is truly my favorite of all the holiday meals, but it’s a toss up as to whether I like the meal itself or the leftovers more. Here’s another idea for how to use up all those delicious leftovers and a few from previous years to keep you busy for a couple of dinners following the big one.
Also, don’t forget to freeze and label what you won’t use in the several days following the big meal. Save it all for later in the winter when you need a weeknight dinner right quick and in a hurry.
Turkey Shepard’s Pie
In a casserole dish, layer cooked turkey meat, gravy, cut up green beans (or other vegetable) and top with mashed potatoes or mashed squash. Bake at 350°F or until the edges are beginning to brown and the center is hot all the way through. If you don’t have enough gravy, make a little sauce of your own by heating up the turkey and the green beans with a little butter in an oven-proof skillet. Sprinkle with flour and stir to incorporate. Add a cup or so of stock and stir. Add more if the mixture is too thick. Then layer the rest of your ingredients on top.
I commit one of the seven deadly sins every June on one of our knitting cruises. We have a wonderful guest who comes with delicious knitted shawls and every year I COVET what she’s wearing. She wraps herself in gorgeous colors and luscious yarn and I want every. single. piece she’s created.
This means I have two choices. Surreptitiously sneak a shawl here or there into my cabin. (I mean, she probably wouldn’t miss it, right?) Or get busy.
So, I did the honorable thing (humph) and got busy. My first shawl was this one, called Authenticity, by Sylvia McFadden, who, it turns out is one of my favorite designers. It’s made with Cascade 220 Superwash Yarn in Doeskin Heather, which they have at Halcyon Yarn (our schooner pop-up store partners). I started using this yarn on a sweater which, turns out, no matter what I did, I reeeally disliked. The whole thing just looked like a sack on me and even strategizing with Mim, one of our fabulous knitting cruise instructors, did nothing to improve the level of flattery. I ripped it out and set the yarn aside in the closet for the emotion of intense dislike to drift away. Time truly does do wonders because when it came time to get busy with making my own delicious shawls, enough time had lapsed, and I came to love this yarn again.
It’s my first, but not my last