What I’ve been up to

Morning, everyone! Ready for another post? I’m adjusting to regular posting again. It feels so good. Last night, to celebrate and because cool weather is settling in, I made sticky buns and sweet potato kale hash from Tanya Holland’s soul fulfilling Brown Sugar Kitchen cookbook.

A couple weeks ago I spent a few days in San Francisco, taking daily walks through places like the Presidio and checking out the goods at the Ferry Street Building. I went to Omnivore Books (bookstores and libraries are musts for me when visiting a place) and that’s where I saw the BSK cookbook and learned about Holland’s famous chicken and waffles. A couple days later I ate at said place, but ordered the BBQ Shrimp & Grits with a biscuit (topped with homemade pineapple jam). Quick note – the best food in San Francisco seems to be in Oakland and that jam is a MUST!!

Since I have not been blogging, I have been doing a million and one other things: freelance writing work, beekeeping, backyard chicken rearing, and preparing for a sort of secretive, potentially life changing thing I’m doing in the next few weeks. (no, not getting married or adopting or anything medical). More on that secret thing in a few weeks.

Fall is arriving like an old friend one hopes will stay for weeks not days. With whispers of colorful leaves falling slowly to the ground and cool windy kisses at night that have you shutting the windows…This is the season when I eat more apples and just about anything pumpkin related, wrap myself in blanket on the sofa in front of football or baseball (the latter is something I’m getting back into), soak in the bath, and drink mugs of tea.

Before the morning gets away from me, I wanted to share with you a few links to stories I did while not blogging.

maine farmland

A profile of Long Grain restaurant in Camden, Maine for Maine Farmland Trust’s first annual magazine.

and

Huffington Post:

Tasting Whiskey

Q&A w/ Joe Conway, author Get Back Stay Back: 2nd Generation Back-to-the-Landers in Maine

Gourmet Doughnut Food Truck in Portland, Maine

Q&A With Diana Yen, Author of A Simple Feast (including a recipe for Raspberry Eton Mess)

Special Surfer Nights in Kennebunk, Maine

Hop Farming in Maine

Potluck Parties and a Q&A with Author Ashley English

Q&A with Kate McCarty for her book Portland Food: the Culinary Capital of Maine

Growing Soybeans in Northern Maine

A Report on Climate Change and Flooding in the Northeastern U.S.

Gunpowder Rye Whiskey: A Nod to the Past 

and

IMG_2297

Borlaug Institute Program Offers Optimism and Stability in Democratic Republic of Congo

Cocoa Is Playing a Positive Role in the Democratic Republic of Congo  (IMAGE above provided by Theo Chocolate)

and then I am also wrapping up my Portland Press Herald/Maine Today blog “The Root

Alisa Carswell’s hometown restaurant

alisa + Meg black balsam

Photo of Alisa (in the back) and her partner Meg by their friend Audra Ayn.

A few months ago I started thinking, I need to find a designer who can make Delicious Musings a place where I want to spend time again. I am so in awe of what the lovely Ashley English does with her space Small Measure, so I reached out to her for a recommendation and she pointed me in the direction of Alisa Carswell.

Blogging for me is an intimate experience, so I really needed someone who would get me – without really necessarily knowing me – and take what I wanted and grow it. Alisa did that and was an absolute joy to work with. Funny, smart, patient…all the qualities one would want for a designer. And, she listened! She paid attention to what I was saying and through a series of conversations and emails got ideas and then went back to her space in Asheville, North Carolina and got creative.

Because I love food, I thought what better way to share a little bit of Alisa with you than to give you a taste of her hometown. When I asked her to send information about her favorite restaurant and what she orders there, she not only sent me a great description – she even gave us a recipe!! Thanks Alisa, for EVERYTHING!

(from Alisa)

My favorite restaurant in Asheville is just around the corner from my house. King Daddy’s chicken and waffles! It’s run by some of my favorite clients on the planet. John and Julie Stehling. The reasons I love King Daddy’s are many, but the main thing is Julie & John’s commitment to local food & the community. The food is amazing & the service is the best there is.

My favorite dish to get there is Gluten free Chicken and a vegan gluten free waffle.
I have ceilac and it’s so hard to find any restaurants that have a dedicated gluten free fryer! King Daddy’s also makes amazing sweet potato hush puppies and I love them with a side of BBQ sauce to the get the party started!

My favorite thing to make at home is stuffing for Thanksgiving dinner. I love the tradition of Thanksgiving. I love that it’s a holiday that involves eating and (for us) watching lot of great football! My Meg loves my stuffing more than anything else I make and she gets so excited as I only make it a few times a year. I love seeing her so happy about stuffing!!

My favorite Stuffing recipe :

• 2 tablespoons of olive oil
• 2 large sweet onions, finely diced
• 2 cups of celery, finely diced
• 1 cup red pepper , finely diced (I prefer Jimmy Nardello Italian | Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co or pimento peppers if I can get them)
• 10 oz of fresh button mushrooms (I prefer to use chicken of the woods mushrooms, but they are very hard to find in Western North Carolina in November.)
• 1-2 cups of veggie stock (I use edward & sons vegan gluten free not chick’n bouillon cubes. I prefer cubes over stock as it is a richer taste.
• 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh sage (I grow fresh sage, so yummy in fall/winter dishes)
• 8 cubes bread crumbs. I use gluten free ones from whole foods, easy and quick. Any day old gluten free bread chopped into cubes and toasted would work!
• 1 cup toasted walnuts
• 2 eggs lightly beaten
• grey Celtic sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.
• 1 cup of parmesan cheese (optional)

1. sauté the onions, celery and peppers with a 1/2 teaspoon of salt, when onions turn clear, add the mushrooms, sage, more salt and pepper and sauté for about 2-3 mintues, then deglaze with veggie stock.
2. Add cooked veggies to a large bowl filled with bread crumbs and walnuts and enough to veggie stock to soften (make moist not soggy), then add lightly beaten eggs, and stir to combine.
3. Transfer mixture to a large, greased (I use earth balance to make the edges nice and crispy) baking dish and bake at 400 degrees until the top is a little browned (30-35 minutes). Don’t over cook it so it stays nice and moist.

Enojy with a side of mushroom + brown gravy!

Why I blog (and a little about me)

Photo by Jessica Antola.

Photo by Jessica Antola.

You can get the gist of what I’m about to tell you on my about page, but I thought why not dig in and tell you a bit more about who I am now. Seems like as good a time as any considering the launch of the redesigned site.

When I was 21, I moved to New York City with almost no money eager for a big experience. I’d felt compelled to move to the biggest city I knew with the brightest lights I could ever remember seeing since I was in middle school. It was going to be the place where I would begin to understand my own life.

Over the next six months I interned in the photography department at Mirabella Magazine. When I realized that opportunity was not going to turn into the rent-paying job I needed I left to work for a tiny consulting firm with a client roster that included film producers Bob and Harvey Weinstein and Oliver Stone. From there I went to work for Harvey and Bob full time at their company Miramax Films. Before I knew it I was riding around town in limousines with people (legends) like Harvey Keitel, serving popcorn to Faye Dunaway, and making sure that plane was going to fly back snowstorm or not to Los Angeles with George Clooney on board. There was a bunch of other crazy stuff – some good, some not, some boring.

By my mid twenties I had started traveling to Los Angeles for work and one Friday decided to move there, and was in a coworker’s guesthouse by Monday. Hey, those were the times and that was what you did at that age – all the while looking for the next “big” experience.

I worked for Miramax Films until I didn’t, and then I worked for the best public relations firm around on Miramax projects. There was a little craziness mixed in there, but we’ll leave that out.

In my late twenties I wanted to learn more about the making of movies. At that point I got the third luckiest break of my life (the first was working for Harvey and Bob, the second for the great pr maven/lady Pat Kingsley) and went to work for producer Jerry Bruckheimer as his assistant. Good things come in threes, and I’d say that about sums up my working experiences in the film biz – except I’d add “exceptionally” before good.

Nearing my thirties I left Los Angeles on a road trip and without knowing it moved to Maine. It just happened. One of my best friends and I set off on a rock and roll themed road trip and then there we were in this “magical” land where people went sailing and didn’t carry beepers. WHAT?? I took a photography workshop, started reading books again, visited an art supply store, and suddenly started saying yes to every invitation, because I had no reason not to. A month later I was back in Los Angeles packing up my room.

The film business taught me grace, toughened me up, provided really fun times, introduced me to some of the most loyal and amazing people, introduced me to some pretty wretched human beings, got me to be solution oriented – I think on my toes and I’m not afraid of much. My enthusiasm and hard work were often rewarded with more responsibility and some pretty incredible learning opportunities. I’ll forever be grateful and miss it.

That just about brings us to the current state of things. The last ten years has been spent learning about keeping chickens, beekeeping, gardening, real/slow/sustainable food, stitching, sewing, and digging my own damn holes (aka DIY).

This blog is where I share what I have learned along the way, and am excited about. It’s not just about me, but about a whole slew of things happening around me in Maine and a lot further afield. One of the things I am most grateful for are the exceptionally smart and generous people I meet socially and through work. I want to give those folks some space and share their talents and minds with you.

Thanks for reading all this and I look forward to sharing. I’d love to know about you dear readers, so feel free to comment and tell me where you live and what you are interested in – whether it be beekeeping, knitting, throwing dinner parties, whatever.

Delicious Musings gets a redesign

Photo of me by Jessica Antola.

Photo by Jessica Antola.

As you may have noticed, Delicious Musings has been down since the end of March. After five years with the same look, an overhaul was overdue. Well, today I am excited to share Delicious Musings new design with you!

A BIG thank you to Asheville, North Carolina based designer Alisa Carswell, who came highly recommended and was a delight to work with. She, and programmer Jonathan Edwards have been working on the site most of the summer. I would highly recommend this team!

As soon as I saw the new site and began writing for it, I felt like a new homeowner unpacking boxes and figuring out where the mixer would go, the collection of vases found at a moving sale. One of the things I love most about a new space is hanging art and with this new space Alisa worked in some of my photos and several beautiful ones by the very talented Portland, Maine based Winky Lewis.

I will miss the old site, but only a little. It’s like every place I have ever lived. There are wonderful memories you hold tight and some remembered experienced that are just part of growing up.

The primary reason I stopped posting in March, was because I was bored and a little burned out. I just wasn’t excited about the space and it didn’t mesh with the direction I wanted to go in with content.

In the future, you will find original in-depth series as related to food, travel, Maine, photography, movies and books. There will be interviews with people I admire and larger pieces on subjects I find meaningful. Lifestyle meets education and substance.

Anyway, I really hope you like the new design and the content. Please let me know when you love something and when you don’t. What you think means a lot to me. That you take time out of your busy schedule to spend with me is very much appreciated!

Kale Salad with Cherries and Pecans from Smitten Kitchen

Every week I pull a cookbook or two off the shelf, flip through and figure out what I’m going to eat that week. Sometimes I use the author’s recipes, a lot of the time I let their recipes influence how I use what’s already in the pantry.  A couple weeks ago it was the new Canal House cookbook, last week Smitten Kitchen’s cookbook, and this week The Pioneer Woman’s cookbook. I’m all about simple comforting meals, which is exactly what the ladies behind all those books like too – or at least write about.

In general I’m not a fussy eater and certainly not a fancy one. My favorite food comes in styrofoam containers from places you may or may not want to dine at – yes, to those in the know I’m speaking about Southern barbecue. It’s not expensive, it’s “just” homemade and darn good. The only caveat in those meals – that the meat came from a farm the owners of said establishments know and the animals were not fed a diet of candy corn (isn’t that what some idiot was doing out west?). Oh, and don’t get me wrong I thoroughly enjoy eating right out of my garden – God’s salad bar, or what I paid/pay $$ to maintain – and certainly anything from the farmers’ market….but I guess it’s how the food is prepared, how those ingredients come together. I’ve yet to have anything but an extraordinary gastronomic experience when dining at a farmer’s house and my friend RC over at Ezra Pound Cake does a bang it out of the ballpark job with good ingredients in a short amount of time. She, like me, is all about the comfort food. You  go girl.

Someone did an interview last summer and I only found out about it a few weeks ago where they essentially said they only like fancy expensive food. Here’s what I have to say – you are really missing out – not just on cheap food – but on life. Oh, and for heaven’s sake don’t try traveling outside this country or even bother with the Pacific Northwest, Los Angeles – heck California, and any number of towns – okay really ANYWHERE – because what’s the point you’ve already doomed yourself. Cheap food is one of the great pleasures of life.  …Sorry folks I didn’t mean to launch into this midway through a post on kale salad…but having shoved an inch of icy mush off my steps the morning of the final day of March, well I’m having right at it.

Where were we…right I was ranting about someone who eats food for a living and essentially said cheap food isn’t good. I was taking up for all the boardwalk stands, food trucks, diners, and ethnic restaurants with cheap and delicious lunchtime specials…I may be high maintenance, I may want pure maple syrup not the fake stuff with my pancakes, I may want ethically raised and slaughtered pork, but I am not a food elitist.

The art of fancy expensive food isn’t lost on me. I know and have a huge amount of respect for the palettes of certain persons who love it. I think it’s delicious too – at least what I’ve sampled – but if I’ve got a choice it’s going to be the Po’ Boy at Eventide in Portland or just about anything from Blue Rooster Co. (also in Portland) before I ante up to the big boys table.

Cheap does not equal bad, not always. Not anymore than expensive or luxury. Anything can be bad, but anything can be good too.

Alright, then how about that salad..

The kale salad I made from the Smitten Kitchen’s Cookbook – see how I’m jerking us back into the topic of the post – is simple, homemade comfort food.

Kale Salad with Cherries and Pecans from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook  by Deb Perelman
1/2 cup pecans
8 ounces black kale, also known as Lacinato, Dinosaur, or Tuscan Kale
4-medium large radishes
1/2 cup dried cherries
2 ounces soft goat cheese, chilled

Dressing:
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp smooth Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsp honey
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350, and spread pecans on a tray. Toast for 5-10 minutes, tossing once or twice to make sure they toast evenly. Remove from oven, set aside to cool.
Wash kale and let dry on spread-out kitchen towels. Then, with a knife, remove the rib from each stalk, leaving long strips of kale leaves. Stack the leaves in small batches, roll them tightly the long way, and cut the roll crosswise into thin ribbons. Add the kale ribbons to a large salad bowl.
Thinly slice the radishes, and add to bowl. Coarsely chop the pecans and cherries (I don’t chop the cherries), and add them as well. Crumble the goat cheese over the top. Whisk dressing ingredients together in a small dish, and pour the dressing over the salad. Toss the salad until it is evenly coated with dressing. This salad is great to eat right away, but even better after 20 minutes of tenderizing in the dressing (I wouldn’t know – personally I let sit for 5-10 minutes).

Seeds

I have been thinking a lot about seeds recently. A couple weeks ago the first of a few padded manilla envelopes arrived in the mail with seeds I’d ordered one day in early February. Walking back down the gravel driveway from the mail box to my house I felt I was holding spring in my hands. Well, spring is here and now I’m realizing that is more late May or June contained in the envelopes. This weekend I’ll head to the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association Seed Swap organized by Fedco. It will be exciting to see people who are energized by planting their own food – who take the initiative  and enjoy getting dirt under their nails. Little brings me more joy than a warm sunny day spent in the garden, chickens running about, Kirkie (the cat) hanging out… I work the dirt while humming along to the song playing from the radio hooked up in the barn. It’s a glorious thing having what I would almost call a luxury these days – land to plant.

Different friends have moved and are moving to homes where they will have yards and can also raise their own food. It was something people did here 50-100 years ago and may have taken for granted. One asks when did we become lazy, dependent upon plastic wrapped items grown thousands of miles away?

Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing CR Lawn of Fedco. Lawn, better known as CR (which stands for Crabgrass as in Crabgrass Lawn and comes from his college days), bought land and moved to Maine in 1973. Five years later he started the seed business Fedco, a consumer and worker member-owned cooperative in Maine. Here is a link to the article.

Taking a Break

From healthy living posts that is. Just for a few days. I’ll be honest – as much as I love working out and cute gym clothes they just don’t thrill me the way a great book does or digging into research for one of my stories. I might complain sometimes about not getting enough sleep or being stressed about a deadline, but I love love love research and learning. The best thing about writing for professional media outlets – the access you more or less have to some of the leading scientists on say climate change, seed geneticists, farmers, authors, and so on.

What I’ve been digging into recently…

A series on coffee – I am working on it with my friend A.F. the Editor of the Portland Food Map, who inspired this series with his passion for the substance. Parts one and two are based on time spent with Matt Bolinder of Matt’s Wood Roasted Organic Coffee and Speckled Ax (Portland, ME) and can  be found here and here. Parts three and four are courtesy of the time Bob Garver, the owner of Bard Coffee (Portland, ME), gave me.

There are two more posts yet to come in the coffee series so consider me fully caffeinated full-time.

It’s maple season here in Maine so I’m also spending a significant amount of time and space on the subject. The first piece (not a series) is on the new maple grading system. A post from earlier this week focused on this year’s Maple Sunday and real vs. fake – among other things.

In the next few weeks I’ll do two more posts related to maple.

My last road trip for a while was to Bar Harbor a couple weeks ago for the second in a series on Passamaquoddy Indians with assistance from the Abbe Museum. The final part of the series will run this summer. I’ll try to write about that trip soon, much to share.

Coffee photo by Nicole Bohl.

Workout Playlist

First, so such a bummer…but last minute I had to back out of the Engine 2 Challenge at Whole Foods Market in Portland, Maine. I was so looking forward to participating and sharing all the class info w/ you, but life intervened and the time just wasn’t there.

On a positive note, that means today’s post is open for anything…so I figured it’s sunny out and in the 40’s (a winter heat wave) and something fun/festive is called for.

Here are a few songs that keep me going on the elliptical and treadmill. What’s on yours? Oh, and are some/most of the songs on your playlist ones you’d never listen to any other time? That’s the case for most of my workout material.

Waiting for Superman – Daughtry (when did he drop the “Chris”?)
The Man – Aloe Blacc (such a sexy song)
Dark Horse – Katy Perry (she shows up a lot in my workout playlists)
All Too Well – Taylor Swift
Dancing On My Own – Robyn
Not Afraid – Eminem (he is so talented!)
Let’s Go – Calvin Harris feat. Ne-Yo
Without You – David Guetta and Usher (I know, total be-bop, but when you need something early in the AM to pop this song works)

I’m looking forward to hearing “Ghost Stories” – Coldplay’s new album. Their songs often end up up on the rotation.

Drink Water

Yesterday, NPR reported that thanks to Rohit Karnik, a mechanical engineer at MIT, all you need to drink clean water is a stick!  Okay, so maybe there’ s a little more to it than that…but his concept is till pretty low-tech.

Why is this important? Well, I’m not a scientist but I’m pretty sure every living thing needs water. Even ants drink water.

And, some of us should be drinking more water than we do – and this really should go without saying, but less soda.

According to Web MD (okay, not always the best authority) the #1 benefit to consuming water – it helps maintain the balance of body fluids. #2 water can help control calories. #3 water helps energize muscles #4 water helps keep skin looking good #5 water helps your kidneys #6 water helps maintain normal bowel function.

Some pretty common sense stuff.

It’s so easy when you live in a first world country to get clean/drinkable water.  Free, right out of the tap! Markets are stocked with bottles of it – you’ve even got the choice of brand and whether you want lime or lemon flavored. There’s no excuse I can manage for not drinking water every day.

Did you know nearly 1 billion people cannot access safe, clean water. Every day in rural communities and poor urban centers throughout sub-Saharan Africa, hundreds of millions of people suffer from a lack of access to clean, safe water. Women and girls especially bear the burden of walking miles at a time to gather water from streams and ponds – full of water-borne disease that is making them and their families sick. Want to help – check out The Water Project.

Want the bittersweet side effects to drinking soda, go here.

My personal soda/water story is this. While living in Los Angeles I drank soda and ran and gained weight (okay and I was eating processed foods). In Maine I drink a lot more water and hardly ever soda and granted hardly any processed foods and run/workout (same amount as in LA) and I weigh less and feel healthier.

When I was giving up soda in favor of water I’d add slices of lemon or lime or cucumber to the water and I found I much prefer seltzer water to soda anyway. Do you have any natural water flavoring tips/combos?

Gotta run, but drink your water.

about this blog

About Me Sharon Kitchens and Delicious Musings. Welcome and thank you for visiting my blog. I write about all the things I enjoy - Culture, Food, Photography &Travel. Read more on my about page.

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