March 1, 2010

Making Marmalade with the Canadian Hockey Team

Heather and I are about out of orange marmalade so I'd better make some! If you've never made marmalade the old-fashioned way, it's fairly time-consuming. Peeling the oranges, trimming some of the white from inside the peels, then slicing those peels into the tiniest slivers possible. Adding the lemon slices, cutting up the orange pulp, adding water and setting aside for 12-18 hours.

Then cooking for an hour or so to tenderize the peels, adding the sugar and cooking to the jellying point. Bottling, capping, setting aside to cool. Only sometimes, like yesterday, the marmalade, in spite of testing well for its jell, didn't set as firmly as I wanted.

Soooooo, I decided to re-cook the batch, nothing I haven't done before, although certainly a pain in the patootie! Empty the bottles, wash and sterilize them again while the marmalade comes back up to a boil. All was going very nicely to this point, when...

I glanced at the tv and saw the USA-Canada hockey game head into overtime. Mesmerized, and I have to admit, rooting for Canada, I watched the final seven minutes and forty seconds. I didn't want the USA to lose, but I really wanted Canada to win... you know?

YES! Canada won!

Yup, scorched the marmalade. I'll start over tomorrow.


January 18, 2010

What I Did on My Winter Vacation...Next Door to Haiti

We flew out of Boston on Saturday January 9th headed for a week's vacation at an eco resort in the Dominican Republic where the temps were in the 80's, the breezes soft and tropical and the ocean - in serious contrast to here, home in Maine - can actually tempt a person to swim.

Our first few days were absolutely perfect and we revelled in the sun. We chortled at the cold and snow back home. We relished the delicious food, admired the lush vegetation, appreciated the warm and friendly people. And then the earthquake at the other end of the island, in Haiti.

We didn't feel physical tremors where we were, but the shock waves that went through the community were stunning. Many in the Domican Republic are from - or have substantial family ties to - Haiti, often working in the DR to send money back home.

If you've been to that area you know how unimaginably poor its people are. There are a few good main roads, but they quickly become dirt tracks. While there are definitely wealthy people and very lovely homes, the average family is far more likely to be crowded into a small shack, one made of found materials, or even more often, very shoddily produced concrete. In some places these homes are crowded, jumbled, together very tightly. Safe drinkingwater and decent sanitation facilities can be iffy, and the resulting health problems are challenging on a daily basis.

We've all seen images of the vast destruction the two countries on the island of Hispaniola and their people face during each year's hurricane season, with winds that can scour the land completely clear. But with hurricanes, there is often warning and a predictable path and direction. BUT, to have the destruction come without warning from beneath the sandy, unstable land is truly horrifying. And then there are the aftershocks.

Hearing the news grow steadily worse, I really, really regretted giving up my Red Cross emergency team certification and wondered if my sister-in-law who's been very active in the Washington state RC might be on her way. I felt blessed, humbled, and yes, somewhat guilty, at the wonderful meals, comfy bed and insulated vacation we were having. What to do, what to do?

The resort where we were and the others in the area too, I'm sure, quickly sent literally tons of bottled water and food. We donated money which would most readily benefit the disaster area, only a few hours away by some still-passable roads. And, we left (almost) all our clothes and shoes for the immediate aid effort. We figured they were summer weight clothes, new or in really good condition, and the resort offered to launder anything needing to be. We hoped many others would do the same thing.

Back home in Maine Sunday morning, it was a normal day... a cup of coffee, eggs and toast, the Boston Sunday Globe, oh, and mustn't don't forget to take my mulit-vitamin.

In Port au Prince on Sunday morning, 50,000 people were huddled in one of the city's open-space parks. With only the clothes on their backs. No hot coffee. No eggs and toast. No safe water period. No food period. VERY rudimentary sanitation facilities...50,000 people. The elderly, the babies, the grieving families, the hoping families, the separated families. No medium for news or communication. Each with nothing, absolutely nothing, more than a small patch of bare ground. And they had so, so little before...

It will be one week tomorrow since the 'quake hit, and although relief aid, temporary hospitals, tents, and mobile kitchens have started to get through, be set up and operating, there is so far to go. If you have a roof over your head and food on your table, please give something, anything, whatever you can, to help these people. Giving money, of any amount, is probably the wisest way to help.

It's my aim to donate what we spent on our winter vacation. In some ways, these people do live in a paradise, but life right now is certainly hell.


October 26, 2009

Christmas, Kindles, Citrus Honey Butter and Such!

Very exciting! After I wrote about the possibility of libraries someday lending Kindles, I discovered that one here in Maine - in Camden - already does this! Hopefully, this will be yet another instance of "As Maine goes, so goes the nation!"

I got a MOST unusual book order the other day, a person in Sofia, Bulgaria ordering The Frugal Family's Kitchen Book. I sent him an email asking how on earth he'd become aware of the book, and if I hear back I'll certainly share what he says with you. Speaking of The Frugal Family's Kitchen Book, it's time to order for Christmas gift-gifing. You can use Pay Pal here, order through or send your order to Cranberry Knoll Publishers LLC, P. O. Box 1317, Yarmouth Maine 04096.

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE! Order now and you can get a free honey cookbook! The honey recipe book I mentioned a few weeks ago is now available HERE - Recipes for Your Honeys, an e-book. There are over two dozen recipes using honey for all kinds of dishes from meats and veggies to desserts. Lots of tidbits and interesting info too.

Cost is $2.99 and of course you can use PayPal to buy just Recipes for Your Honeys.

OR order The Frugal Family's Kitchen Book and you will be able to download Recipes for Your Honeys e-book FREE. Be sure to include your email address with your order. Click on the Buy Now button in the right column.

The Frugal Family's Kitchen BookThe Frugal Family Kitchen Book is $14.95 with FREE shipping and handling (in the continental U.S.). Please add 5% ME sales tax for books shipped to addresses in Maine. PayPal adds the $.75 sales tax to all orders.

I may have given you this honey recipe from the new book before but it's especially good on the pumpkin bread you'll be undoubtedly be making after Halloween! Or try it on the fat-free, sugar-free date muffins from an earlier posting.

Citrus Honey Butter

Combine 1/2 c honey, 1/4 c softened butter and any single or combination of 1/2 tsp each grated orange, lemon and lime peel. Use fresh or refrigerate. Flavors blend and intensify as it sets. Wonderful on waffles and pancakes too.

And now I've got to finish planting the garlic for next year as well as putting in the new lavender and catnip plants I was given yesterday. WHEN will this garden work end, I ask you!!


October 8, 2009

Harvesting Our First Soybean Crop

soybean, edamame


mushroom cap

Plus, a recipe for shrimp-stuffed portobella caps

This fall I harvested our first soybean crop; I can't imagine WHY it's taken me so long to grow them! Although I could have cooked them in the pods in salted water to just eat out-of-hand, I shelled them instead.

Then I simmered the beans - aka edamame - for about 20 minutes, dried them very lightly coated with some olive oil and roasted them at 350 for about 30 minutes. Sprinkled with sea salt and then tried to keep from eating them all at once! I will definitely grow much more next year as, like most bean, they grew easily and produced well.

Now, on to the the shrimp recipe. WARNING: If recipes that don't give exact ingredient amounts drive you nuts, turn back now!

Shrimp-stuffed Portobella Mushroom Caps

4 large portobella caps
1 can cream of shrimp soup
a whole lot of shrimp - I probably used 1/2 to 3/4 of a bag of frozen ones
Old Bay seasoning

Most cookbooks tell you not to wash mushrooms before using, just to tap to rid of any dirt. I usually wash them anyway, then remove the stems carefully, leaving all the gills. Grease a small baking pan and set caps upside down.

Thaw shrimp, remove shells if need be. Now, take some onion, maybe a half a big one, and some celery, maybe two ribs, add to the shrimp and chop. Set aside.

Cut up some leftover bread into small cubes, add to the shrimp, onion and celery and add all but a couple of TBSP of the soup, 1/2 c water, and a liberal sprinkle of Old Bay. Mush this all together to mix well. Top the mushroom caps generously, then mix the remaining soup with a smidge of water, maybe a splash of sherry and pour over the stuffed mushrooms.

I baked at 350 for almost 30 minutes so the mushrooms were nice and meaty and the stuffing had a nice crisp crust. Even filling the caps fully, I had a little stuffing leftover, and it was beyond delicious the next day made into a patty and pan-seared. YUM!

We've been pressing cider... we'll talk about that next time, plus our sweet potato harvest.


October 1, 2009

Books fall open, you fall in...

Books fall open, you fall in...
David McCord

Like so many of you, I am a voracious reader, and also like so many of you, I passionately support my local library. The past few years have seen some interesting changes, shifts in what - and how - America reads. Right now, with money still tight (no matter who proclaims this recession over), libraries are enjoying a resurgence of patonage. But, what will happen when the economy truly picks up? Will sales of "real" books rebound? Will the price of Kindles fall, and that kind of "book" capture more and more readers? No matter how libraries, books and Kindles continue to find and strengthen their niches, our reading life certainlyIS changing.

I've recently finished a delightful book called Little Heathens, recommended to me by my fellow "little heathen" from our teen years in Marblehead MA. It's a memoir set in Iowa during the Great Depression. Interestingly, I found it in the history, not biography, section of our library, but then it IS a remarkably detailed picture of a time and a place worth visiting.

Now, my son-in-law Shaun swears that I've never met a book I didn't like. Not true! Of course I can't imagine life without reading, but books themselves... ahhh, the smell, the bindings, the deckled-edge pages, the varying fonts, the sense of the person who lifeblood is inked on those pages....

And, so, I do love libraries too. I'm endlessly grateful to Mr. Carnegie, his vision and his initial support of that great egalitarian project, the everytown public library. I live in a small town, I don't think we've topped 10,000 in population yet, but we have what I consider a first-class library.

As in so many small towns across the country, our Merrill Memorial Library is housed in an old building, ours one of considerable grandeur and space. In addition to the truly eclectic book collection, there are many varied magazines, videos, and audio books plus, an incredible, multi-faceted children's program. I could not live without the garden, craft, travel and cookbooks available FREE right downtown.

There are art exhibits, evening author programs, poetry workshops, knitting and quilting groups that meet at MML, all of these well beyond the scope of Mr. Carnegie's original vision. But, this place, this heart of the community, like so much of our western civilization, all began around books.

And then there are Kindles. A number of my adult children have Kindles, the amazing reading device from It IS stunning! In its size, features, capabilities, and yes, just plain practicality. For someone like me who loves to read in bed at night... well, those Harry Potter tomes can be hard to hold up, you know! And, yes, I do have a reading pyramid that I love.
The size of a slim 5x8" picture frame, a Kindle feels lighter than that picture frame with its glass. And, while I'm certainly not here to sell Kindles, I can see what it could mean to many readers. While our library has a small selection of large-print books, with the Kindle you can adjust the size of the font you're reading. As America ages, what a gift that may be.

If you travel a lot or it isn't easy to get to the library often, the accessibility of thousands upon thousands of titles, magazines, even blogs, downloadable in something like 60 seconds, is mind-boggling. And the Kindle can store something like 1,500 books for your perusal. Part of me really, really wants one, while another part of me feels disloyal at the mere thought.

Do you think there will come a time when our libraries have Kindles to borrow just as we do those audio books? Maybe we could rent Kindles from the library to take on vacations. I know our libary has been reporting increased circulation numbers in recent months, and while that may reflect this economic downturn, it is a hopeful sign that America's small towns are still reading!

Books, no matter how you access those written words, are an incredibly rich part of our daily life, and this country's library's are one of our richest small-town AND big-city resources. While a Kindle can offer the access, it will never replace the sense of community that our libraries often provide. Have you thanked a librarian today??

I'm currently hooked on Scandanvian and Icelandic mysteries... please let me know what you're reading these days!


September 23, 2009

Vegans, Vegetarians, Flexitarians, and Freeatarians. Oh, my!

Although I like to think of myself as a vegetarian, I do still eat some seafood which I guess makes me a flexitarian. Flexitarians generally eat no flesh, but once in a while do eat seafood, poultry or red meat. There are a stunning number of labels these days for describing our eating habits and styles. Where for centuries of our country's history, we strove for "three squares," now we graze, nosh, aim for six minis a day, and eat many, many meals "on the go."

When I first became interested in vegetarianism a very long time ago, the World Vegetarian Congress defined thirteen levels of vegetarianism ranging from vegans who use no milk, eggs, honey or any product, including clothing, dervied from the animal kingdon to Jain (Indian) vegetarians who avoid foods that grow below the ground.

Most people today who follow a flesh-free way of eating are ovo-lacto vegetarians, keeping eggs and dairy products as part of their diets. Of course meat is generally considered as a protein source, but it's an expensive one, especially in terms of our earth's limitied arable land.

While all the labels certainly can get confusing, the basic idea of limiting our intake of what's called pass-through protein makes great earth-savvy sense. Consider the idea JUST from an economic viewpoint... The acreage it takes to fatten a beef critter would feed so many more people in this world if planted in various protein-rich grains and legumes. (I'm sure you can see where the label "pass-through protein" comes from.) Actually, Americans HAVE been reducing their meat-eating in the recent past especially since this economic downturn began.

And remember, I'm just asking you to consider this from a personal and global economic perspective, not even factoring in health, ethical, or other individual considerations.

Okay, so what's a freeatarian, you ask? I was at a wedding recently where a table of us were discussing the whole range of vegetarian approaches, when one 20-something said that he's a freeatarian. HUH? "Yup, if it's free, I eat it!"


September 10, 2009

Freezing a Summer Fruit Salad

One of my favorite cookbooks, one I've often mentioned here, is Make-A-Mix Cookery, an invaluable guide to making your own money- and time-saving mixes. Basic Bisquick-type mix, cookie, cake, bread mixes. Meat seasoning mixes, and so, so much more. One recipe in that book has always interested me, but I'd never tried it until last weekend.

It's called Marie's Fruit Cocktail Mix, a combination of green grapes, peaches, melons and blueberries in a lemon- and orange-flavored simple syrup. I hadn't tried it because I couldn't imagine how this mix would freeze and not be all mushy when thawed.

Of course I didn't quite follow the recipe as given... I cut the sugar in the syrup and used less melon than called for. I have a container of the finished product thawing on the counter right now, but this I can tell you: It looked terrific and tasted w-a-y wicked good as a fresh fruit salad. We had company for supper the night I made it, and they raved over the samples I served with molasses crinkle cookies.

Frozen Fruit Cocktail Mix

1/2 watermelon, cut in bite-size pieces
1 crenshaw melon, cut in bite-size pieces
1 cantaloup, cut in bite-size pieces
lots of green grapes
lots of blueberries
peaches to taste, cut in bite-size pieces

You'll need a B-I-G bowl for mixing all this fruit.

Mix together and bring to a boil, stirring well:

3 cups sugar
2 qts. water


1 6 oz can EACH, frozen orange juice and frozen lemonade.

Pour, hot, over fruit, gently mix, pack into freezer containers, leaving 1/2" head room. The orginal recipe said to pack the fruit then cover with the hot syrup, but I wanted to be sure the fruit was well-coated with the syrup to prevent any browning.

Okay, I've just gotten into the almost-thawed fruit...everything's kept its color perfectly, the watermelon, cantaloup and crenshaw have all kept both their texture and individual flavors, and
the blueberries, peaches and grapes are yummy too.

Most definitely, this recipe is a money-saving winner for winter!


August 28, 2009

A Wax Bean Winter

It was 44.2 degrees out when I got up this morning at 5:30. August 28...44.2 degrees! As I took puppy Gracie out for her walkabout, I could see the peppers in the garden shivering, while the summer squash and cucumbers were huddled together under curled leaves. This has not been a kind summer for garden - or gardeners - here on the coast of Maine and in many other parts of the country.

It will be a wax beans winter for us since that's the one thing that has produced bountifully this year. But what does this almost-over growing season mean for most of us for the coming winter? The usual routine... higher prices for foods from fruits and veggies to grain products to meat (because of the high cost of feed). Can you do anything about it? YUP, you can.

While there are still farmer's markets open and even some pick-your-own operations will be open well into the fall, stock up on whatever you can. We'll buy corn to freeze since we lost all three plantings. We'll have some tomatoes to can and there are a couple of dozen quarts left from last year. Potatoes, carrots and beets have done reasonably well, while the onions will be small.

If you don't have a garden or access to fresh produce to preserve, it's discouraging. But if you start thinking about it now, one of the best things you can do - if you have the storage space - is to start buying extra cans/frozen pacgages of those veggies you know you'll need... peas, green beans, corn, beets, stock the larder. And consider new recipes, reducing portion sizes and eliminating some of those items from your grocery list such as drinks, snacks and pre-packaged lunch products. BUT, start now.

It may be a soup, stew and wax bean winter, but you can still be well-fed AND frugal!


August 17, 2009

The Buzzzzzz on Beekeeping for Beginners

Suzanne from The Herb Farm in Annisquam MA asked about becoming a beekeeper. It's a great idea, harnessing all those industrious little nectar-gathering bees to provide you with pollination, honey, and beeswax. But for the total neophyte, it's not the easiest or cheapest hobby to start. Now, do I have bee hives? Nope! I've always wanted some and we have a good location for one or two, but Bert's allergic, so that's that.

FIRST, before you even go further in thinking about becoming a beekeeper, you MUST spend a day or two with an experienced apiarist. In addition to learning what equipment you'll need for yourself and the bees, you need to actually experience being around an active hive, and you need to see firsthand - not just read about - what it takes to manage a healthy colony. It would be ideal if you could visit a apiary now, later in the fall, in mid-winter and then early spring before you order your own equipment and bees. I can't stress enough how important this visit to a working apiary is BEFORE you invest in your own beekeeping.

Before we even glance at the equipment needed, consider, too, that keeping a healthy bee colony is not always something you can control. Bees are subject to a number of challenges, as the recent past has shown. Two or three years ago, mites wiped out many a hive in New England. Happily, we've noticed a full rebound in bees in our fruit trees and bushes and flower beds this year. But, just be aware...

I've heard estimates of $250 to $1,000 to set up your first hive or two. And a beginner certainly shouldn't consider undertaking any more hives than that. You might be able to get some equipment secondhand, but take some care there as you certainly don't want to take any chance on compromised equipment. I've found the website for New England Beekeeping Supplies, Etc. absolutely invaluable. The following link will take you right to their page that helps you estimate your first year costs for setting up a couple of hives. New England Beekeeping Supplies, Inc.

Your state university's Cooperative Extension Service also has much helpful information, and of course, your local library probably has books on this subject too.

You'll need gear to protect yourself even if you do believe that bee stings are good for treating arthritis, etc. There are helmets, hats, veils, those long leather gloves and full protective suits, all of which adds up. You can buy a beekeeping starter set for well under two hundred dollars, and plans to guide you in building your own hives are easy to come by. So you can get started inexpensively if you work at it.

Now what about getting the bees themselves? Well, you don't just go down to your local seed-/feed store and pick up a hive's worth!! Most northeastern suppliers get their bees from the south or mid-west, although I do believe there's one apiary with their own stock in MA. Bee packages are usually under $100, while a sturdy queen may be $25 or so.

I hope this gives you a cursory idea of what's involved, even though I haven't talked about setting up and populating the hives, dealing with swarms, etc. The sweeetest end product, the honey, varies hugely from hive to hive and indeed, all over the world, depending on whether those bees are feasting on Maine blueberry blossoms, Scottish heather, or Australian eucalyptus!

My daughter Heather's father-in-law, Don of VT and sister-in-law Lee, of NH both keep bees, and their honeys are great! In fact, several years ago, I put together a little honey information and recipe booklet for Don called Recipes for My Honeys. If there's enough interest in it, I'll print off some more... what do you think? There are about 30 pages and recipes including breads, cookies, cheesecake, veggie and main dish recipes? What would be a fair price?? Help me decide whether to make this available??
And, thanks for your help!! Mary

July 30, 2009

Gracie, all tired out after her garden chores
Thanks, Heather, for the picture!

Gardening with Grace
Plus, a recipe for Blueberry-Lemon Bread/Cake

Yes, we did name our new puppy Grace Belle, and she IS a huge help in the garden... sort of! But this summer's garden has required a different kind of grace. Here on the coast of Maine, unrelenting rain, fog, mist, drizzle and just plain humidity, plus cool temperatures and little sun, have tested even the most patient and persistent gardeners.

Some thing of course are thriving in this micro-climate, but many things are not, especially those plants that like it hot such as peppers. We've planted - and lost- three batches of corn seed, and can only hope now that farmers farther inland from us will have abundant crops. But it isn't as though they haven't had a cool, damp summer too. So far, many of Maine's early hay cuttings, a crop essential for winter feed, have been devastated.

I've always stressed that one of the best ways to save on your grocery spending is to grow and preserve your own produce. Or, at least buy at your local farmer's market or even pick-your-own to can or freeze. That's a little tougher this year. But it is still going to mean better eating and more savings this coming winter.

One bumper crop for us this year is blueberries. The raspberries are doing well too, but they mold very quickly in the damp and must be picked quickly when it's relatively dry. No such problem with the blueberries. Plus, I'm sure you've read aoubt the fabulous anti-oxidant benefits (among other things) of blueberries.

We have a dozen or so high-bush blues of at least five different varieties. They are also planted near wild berries so the cross-pollination yields really favorful, large fruit. With no preparation needed to freeze them (just put in containers or plastic bags) , frozen blueberries don't lose shape or get mushy, and they can be used to make so, so many wonderful things including juice, plain or blended with lemonade, apple, or cranberry. I make a four-berry juice from straw-, rasp-, black- and blueberries with only minimal honey sweetening needed.

Yesterday I came across a recipe for a blueberry-lemon bread/cake. As this is one of my absolutely favorite flavor combinations, I went right down and picked fresh blueberries to try it. You make the batter, which incorporates finely grated lemon peel, then top with a mixture of 'berries, a little sugar and more lemon peel. The batter rises up over the topping, and the result is delectable!

Blueberry-Lemon Bread/Cake
Beat all together
1 1/2 c flour
3/4 c sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c shortening
2/3 c milk
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp grated lemon peel

Pour into a greased 8x8" pan and top with this mixture

1 cup fresh blueberries
3 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp grated lemon peel
Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes or until browned and springy. YUM!

I suppose we need to look at back-to-school spending, but it's hard to face classes starting again after so little summer! Ya' know??