Each day I like to wear something hand made. Most of the time it’s something knitted, but every once in a while a sewn item creeps in to my wardrobe as well. There’s something deeply satisfying about moving through the day with something created by and/or for yourself. Something primal? Perhaps. Or maybe I don’t need to wax on about it, but instead need to say that I just truly enjoy it. You get it, right?
My second shawl was Silverleaf by Lisa Hannes made with Madelinetosh Pashmina in Glazed Pecan. It’s yummy. I need not say more. The yarn color is actually discontinued, I’m told, and it came to me by way of a fortuitous trade with a guest (on a knitting cruise of course) who knew my color wheel exactly.
Now that we’ve all reveled and partied; socialized and entertained; and eaten and drunk possibly past the point of judicious reason on one or more occasions during the past holidays, it’s time for a more moderated approach. One with less. Of everything involving fat, carbohydrates, sugar, alcohol and excess. The quickest and simplest way to find dietary equilibrium is by inserting more greens into our bowls and onto our plates.
Green vegetables of all kinds, as many of us know, are filled with vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, and fiber. What they aren’t filled with is the fore-mentioned excesses, unless we are talking portion size, and in that case, more is a good thing. I’m planning on getting my greens in any way I can over the next couple of months. Here are a few suggestions from my kitchen:
1. Add a salad to an already planned dinner. Easy, easy. This is something many of us already do; just make sure you have enough greens in the house and use a vinaigrette rather than a creamy dressing for a little while. When you dress your salad with lemon juice (and extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper) you have the added bonus of helping your body to absorb all of the nutrients in the greens.
2. Salad as the main meal. Add protein of any kind and texture of any kind to create a meal rather than a side. Beans, avocado, nuts, dried fruit, cooked chicken or fish – really the sky is the limit.
3. Add another green vegetable to an already planned dinner. Steamed or sautéed is best for nutrient retention. With either, remove from heat when tender but still bright green.
4. Smoothies made with kale, spinach, Swiss chard, or collard greens. Or add a handful of greens to your already favorite breakfast smoothie. If you choose fruit or veggies that are light or green in color, your smoothie will also be bright green. If you love strawberries or other red or purple fruit in your smoothie, you’ll have to deal with dull green and brown. Get over it, they still taste great!
5. Add pureed greens to already prepared soups. For every soup that serves 4 people, heat 1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock and puree with one cup lightly packed greens. Add to prepared soup right before serving and serve immediately. If not, the brilliant green becomes a dull avocado color.
6. Soups with greens as the main event. Again, kale, spinach, Swiss chard, or collard greens are the best go to’s.
Spinach Soup (with variations)
This soup is a gorgeous, brilliant green, and should be served immediately. If you would like to make it ahead, prepare everything just before adding the spinach. When you are ready to serve, heat the soup to a simmer and puree with spinach in the blender as per the directions.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
11/2 cups diced onions; about 1 medium onion
1 1/2 cups diced celery; about 2 stalks
1 cup peeled and diced parsnips; about 2 parsnips
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
several grinds of fresh black pepper
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
3 ounces spinach leaves, de-stemmed and well-washed; about 3 cups lightly packed
Garnish with minced chives or a swirl of creme frâiche
In a medium stockpot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the vegetables, salt and pepper and sauté until they become soft and translucent, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add the stock and again bring to a boil.
Place the uncooked spinach leaves in the blender and pour the hot stock over the leaves. Puree in a blender and serve immediately.
Serves 4 (Makes 6 cups)
Soup Variations Chicken and Cilantro Spinach Soup – add 1/2 cup lightly packed cilantro leaves with the spinach and 1 1/2 cups diced poached chicken. Puree the greens with the stock or leave it rustic. Cannellini Bean and Pesto Spinach Soup – add 4 tablespoons pesto with the spinach, puree, and then add 1 (15-ounce) can of cannellini beans.
Kale and Mushroom Soup – substitute kale for spinach, puree, and then add 1 cup sautéed mushrooms (3 cups raw and sliced).
7. Substitute the pasta, potatoes, or rice for a bed of greens. For example, with beans and brown rice for dinner, just add a bed of sautéed kale, or even better, forgo the rice and just have the beans and kale with all the fixin’s. Instead of mashed potatoes, add roasted kale or collard greens to your plate. Toss spinach leaves with a hot vegetable pasta sauce and have a warm wilted salad for dinner without the pasta.
As we entered the second floor of the place that we would call home for the next five days, the expansive view of expressive sky, craggy mountains, and lush greenery settled around us, just as the heat and the moist air, like a light shawl or a deep sigh.
I’d forgotten how ‘outside’ living in a tropical climate can be. For us in Maine, most days “outdoor living” means layers of clothing. Even in the summertime when we are sailing, our wool sweaters, down vests, and hand-knit cowls are not far from reach. But here, in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica, not only were we without a single wool item or second layer, we looked out at three sides of a view though… nothing. No windows, no walls. While sheltered by the shade of the roof, the rest of the home was open on three sides to all kinds of weather. What happens if there’s a Nor’eater Jon thought? All day rain? Oh, right, not in Maine any longer. Right.
I’d forgotten the feeling of warm air on my skin, even as the sun goes down. Even as the sun is all the way down… no need for layers of clothing because the air is so warm. And no bugs like the Maine state bird (mosquitoes) ready to suck the life blood out of you. Just a couple of beetles and some moths drawn to the light of the night. (Although to be fair to the state of my heart, Maine does not have all sorts of snakes and bugs that can actually kill you.)
Jon and I spent three years in the Caribbean working on a yacht and moving up and down the Windward and Leeward Islands before we bought the Riggin. It’s been years since we’ve been back to a Caribbean climate and it didn’t take long for the sarongs, beach dried hair, and flip flops to feel like normal garb.
The impetus for this trip was to see where Chloe had spent the last 3 months of her studies. Based in the Cloud Forest of Monteverde, she explored the country through the lens of environmental science, studying the climate and natural world of Costa Rica with all of its abundance and diversity.
Our first foray into the mountains of Costa Rica was a hike into the… woods? The sensation of hiking into tree-shrouded trails, feeling the earth beneath our feet, and the birds chirping above felt just like hiking at home, except…. The leaves on the forest floor were not oak and maple, but rather, unknown The trees had abutments, vines, and epiphytes that covered their trunks. The birds did not sound like the birds at home. It was the oddest sensation of the familiar and the not, as if in a dream where you know where you are, but then it shifts into the unknown.
A trip to this country is not complete without the experience of zip lining! I could have gone again and again. Initially created by scientists to study the forest canopy in the 80’s, zip lining has become a staple of the ecotourism trade. Sailing over the tree tops, the unspoiled views are priceless. Our first meal, at Taco Taco a favorite of locals and visitors alike, introduced us to the flavors of the region. And thus I began dancing with avocados, cilantro, and lime. Also there, we had a flight of local beers which were unexpectedly good.
After exploring Chloe’s homebase, we made our way to Santa Teresa, a quintessential beach town with rolling surf, international visitors, and yoga galore. At the southern tip of the Nicoya Pennisula, there is just enough panache in Santa Teresa to make it feel like a groovy destination rather than a distant outpost. That overdevelopment has remained largely in check is due in no small part to the state of the roads one must travel to get there. Not to belabor the point, but these dirt ditches, rivulets, ponds, rock walls, and steep grades are distant cousins to the paved roads of our towns at home and yet, by the end of the week we found ourselves feeling somewhat confident in our driving abilities and blessing the roads that keep Santa Teresa so idyllic and low-key.
Once ensconced in the open air vrbo, we hardly wanted to leave to adventure. And some days we didn’t. Other days we explored the town, the beach, a nature preserve, and of course did some yoga. Casa Zen, recommended by our host for yoga, is a dorm-like hotel attracting all sorts of hipsters and 20-somethings hanging out in hammocks and a community lounge. Pranamar is on the other end of the spectrum with individual cabins set in lush grounds and an open-air yoga studio right next to the meandering pool.
Santa Teresa is known for its Pacific surf, which attracts surfers of all ages. I wanted to get into the water to play in the waves, but had to screw up my courage to make my way into the 10 to 12 foot surf. After riding the waves for a while, with my trusty captain keeping an eagle eye on me, I made my tuckered way to his side on the sand. That said, even after going out into the fray, I’m not sure I was ready to do it again. It might have almost taken even more courage to venture out a second time the strength of the waves was so impressive.
Where we ate: Fishbar – delicious mojitos and every dish was delightful and well-balanced. Habaneros – right on the beach, watched the sun set. Skip the margaritas and go straight for the ceviche, homemade chips, and the specials of the day. The Bakery – After 3 months of tortillas, rice, and beans, Chloe was craving a pastry. She found satisfaction at this little gem which albeit caters to its visiting international clientele.
Sodas – The Tico (local Costa Rican) version of a Maine diner. Perfect for a bite of local eats or a fresh juice.
As we said ‘so long’ to Santa Teresa and made our way off the peninsula, we stopped at Montezuma for a quick hike up to a waterfall. A little bite at Soda Tipica Las Palmeras and we were off to meet the ferry. I swore I would not step foot on a boat while were on vacation, but saving 4 plus hours of driving seemed a small price to pay. The North Haven ferry pales in comparison to this behemoth.
Our last meal in San Jose, a hidden gem called Café Rojo, found only after following the gps in what seemed like one-way devilry, was a delight. A Vietnamese restaurant, set next to a local bookstore and art installation, it felt as if we could have been sitting down to a meal in any city in world. It was the perfect segue back into our busier stateside life.
Thank you Costa Rice for the adventure and relaxation in equal measure. Pura Vida!
Having just returned from a first-ever family vacation, I can attest with absolute certainty that there’s nothing that replaces time with family, making memories. Presents under the tree are wonderful (and the hand-made ones are the best). But even more, the gift of unrestricted time, to allow the day to unfold without an agenda and with each other, is truly without compare.
With that said, we now have a way to order gift certificates online. You don’t need to purchase a whole trip, but could just contribute to a trip for someone you love. I realize now, more poignantly, how we participate in these memories and are honored to do so.
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.
Every week over the course of the summer, a new brown paper bag of mushrooms arrive from Oyster Creek Mushrooms. It’s always a surprise and it’s always delicious. Almost any mushroom will do in this recipe, and sometimes, in the winter, when our CSA is inactive, I use button mushroom which are also wonderful in this dish.
Fettuccine with Chicken, Mushrooms and Caramelized Onions
This recipe is perfect for using up leftovers from a whole roasted chicken. If you don’t have cooked chicken handy, you can use uncooked, boneless chicken – 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of chicken tenders, breasts, or thighs, cut into 1/4-inch slices. Just add the chicken at the same time as the mushrooms instead of at the end of the recipe and increase the cooking time to 10 minutes.
1 pound fettuccine
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cups sliced onions; about 2 small to medium onions
10 ounces mushrooms, sliced; about 4 cups
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
several grinds fresh black pepper
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup heavy cream
3 cups cooked chicken, pulled into 1-inch pieces
1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese; 1/2 cup lightly packed
Following the instructions on the package, bring water for the fettuccine to a boil. While the water is heating, heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat; once the oil is hot, add the onions. Sauté the onions for 20 minutes, reducing heat to medium-low when the pan begins to brown slightly. When the onions are tender and golden brown, add the mushrooms, salt, and pepper and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add the wine, return the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Begin cooking the pasta following the package instructions. Add the heavy cream to the onion/mushroom pan and bring to a boil again. Add the chicken and continue cooking for a few more minutes, stirring frequently, until the chicken is heated through; serve over the pasta with Parmesan as a garnish.
Serves 4 to 6 generously
P.S. Jean, if you are cooking for only 2 people, this recipe will freeze well. Just saying. 🙂
It’s a tradition in our family to pick a ton of apples in the fall and then take them to the press to be turned into cider at Sewall Organic Orchard. Every since the girls were old enough to pick up apples from the tarp on the ground, we have joined our long-time family friends in this fall ritual. They have more heirloom trees than we do, so most of the apples come from their property. Over the years, as the girls have grown, we’ve perfected our apple picking technique to the point were we’ve got it down to a science. This year, our crew was able to see the press and spend some time sipping cider. And next summer on the Riggin, we will have organic cider every week! There’s a video of the process on Instagram.
One of the special parts of buying locally is being able to visit all of the farms that supply us year round with well-thought and well-crafted ingredients. Thankfully, the farm purveyors come to us in the summer time when I haven’t a second to do anything but receive all of their good work at the boat. Yesterday, however, I had the special chance to visit East Forty Farm.
The farm is owned by Neal Foley and Allison Lakin who recently married and have only been on the property for a couple of years. Individually, they’ve been honing their crafts for years with Neal providing nose to tail farming and cookery of all sort of animals from duck to beef and in our case, pork. Allison is an award-winning cheese maker and supplies the Riggin with gorgeous cheese from her creamery, Lakin’s Gorges Cheese. In addition to everything else, they now offer classes and farm to table dinners to draw fans of their good work to their spot in Waldoboro, Maine.
Neal and I actually met years ago when, on his former farm, he taught comprehensive butchering classes with Kate Hill of Camont in Gascony, France. Kate lives in France and comes over at least once a year to collaborate with Neal on traditional French cooking. My love of cassoulet didn’t begin with these two, but it certainly was fostered and encouraged.
For the first time, I got to see where our cheese is made and even the cows that supply some of the milk for said cheese. And while I didn’t get to meet our actual pig (except in the form of cuts from the freezer), I did get to see where they wander and root in the wooded lots on the farm. This is the next group to come up the ranks and with a couple more to follow. In addition, the cows, milked daily were lazing in the sun when I arrived and as I approached, they roused themselves to greet me.
As I drove home through the Maine countryside on curving two-lane roads, I was surrounded by the last vestiges of fall – the colors of the leaves dimming to amber interspersed with clusters of green spruce and the splash of white bark from the birch trees. The sun dappled the fields and farmhouses as I passed and I found myself grateful to live here and to be a part of a local economy that fosters a healthy, wholesome way of life.
Echinacea is a beautiful flower in the herb or perennial garden. We are lucky enough to have the purple cone flowers dotting several of our beds. Not only is it a lovely friend to enjoy in the garden, when dried, the flowers and roots have healing and immune boosting properties.
The girls and I dig Echinacea root with our friends every fall so both families have a winter’s supply of dried flowers and roots for tea and tincture.
If you don’t have Echinacea in your garden, no worries, it’s easily found in natural food stores. When anyone feels the first sign of a cold coming on, this is the first things that goes on the stove.
2 quarts water
2/3 cup lemon juice from organic lemons; about 3 lemons
9 slices ginger root, 1/8-inch thick
2/3 cup local honey
5 or 6 pieces dried Echinacea root and flowers (use several drops of tincture per mug as a substitute)
Bring the water, ginger root, and Echinacea root to a boil in a large pot over medium-high heat. If you are using Echinacea tincture reserve this until you pour your steaming mug of tea. Reduce the heat to barely a simmer for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and add lemon juice and honey. Sip all day long as desired, heating up each time. Strain any tea you don’t drink over the day into a glass jar and place in the refrigerator overnight.