Wolfe’s Neck State Park & Freeport – A Great Maine Day

Our original plan to celebrate the first day of spring break for the kiddos was to head down to Boston until we realized it was Patriots’ Day and the Boston Marathon. Unless you’re already in Boston, best to stay away unless you want to be stuck in traffic.

So we kept it local and decided to discover a new place in Maine. We’ve never been to Wolfe’s Neck State Park, but heard great things. It’s super close to 295 right outside Freeport Village.

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There are some great picnic areas. The bathrooms were closed, but luckily there was an outhouse that was clean and had hand sanitizer.

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The trails are super easy which was great for the kiddos. It was a wonderful walk through the woods with benches all around so you can sit and simply enjoy nature. It was low tide so we were able to go down the trails to the shoreline. Lots of seashells and seaweed for the kids the explore. Luckily we planned and brought boots. It comes in handy when you want to walk down the shoreline. The flats are super mucky and easy to get stuck in just like quick sand.

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Trails allowed easy access to the shoreline.

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Low tide is fun for the kids to visit and explore.
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Seaweed is everywhere. Boots come in real handy.
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Easy access to shoreline. This is heading towards Casco Bay Shoreline via Casco Bay Trail.
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Kids loved exploring the shoreline.
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Casco Bay Shorline

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We spent about 2 hours hiking. We probably could have walked around for another hour, but the kiddos were hungry. Luckily Freeport Village is a 10 minute drive away. We had lunch at Gritty’s. We love eating here with the kiddos because it is so family friendly. There is a crooked house, a swing set and a huge grassy area where kids can throw footballs. We love sitting outside so we can watch the kids play. The food is typical pub fare, but for our sanity, this is definitely the go to place.

After lunch we hit up the shops at Freeport Village. You can not go to Freeport without heading to L.L.Beans. Great outlet shopping. A ton of stores for all tastes. They’ve really developed Freeport the past few years. Lots more shopping and dining option. They’ve also increased parking areas which have been a challenge.

This was a wonderful Maine adventure for the whole family. It’s a great way to spend a whole day full of activity. Start off with a nice nature walk, have some lunch and end the day with shopping. We’ll definitely be doing this again. Certainly a great Maine day.

Grilled Cheese with Hot Banana Peppers

Today was National Grilled Cheese Day, of course I had to make some. I had a craving for this mac & cheese I enjoyed at Beecher’s in NYC last summer. It was their kale and mama lil’s peppers mac and cheese. So freaking delicious. The tang from the pickled peppers worked so well with the creamy cheese.

The closest pepper I could think of was hot banana peppers which are also super tangy with a nice heat level. I love plain white bread for grilled cheese. A package of Scottish cheddar cheese caught my eye as well as fontina. I like fontina because it provides such a creamy melt. This Mull of Kintyre cheddar was also not too sharp with a nice nutty taste.

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I like spreading mayo on the bread instead of butter. A combination of mayo and butter is awesome too. To complement the hot peppers I spread some Sriracha-spiked mayo.

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Grilled cheese come out awesome using cast iron. For this I used my cast iron grill pan — I just wanted the pretty lines. I then sliced equal amounts of cheddar and fontina, then topped one bread slice with the hot banana peppers.

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Flipped one side on the other and kept toasting until the cheese was all melted.

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This was a super satisfying grilled cheese. Definitely reminded me of Beecher’s mac and cheese. The tang from the peppers really balanced the cheese. The fontina was oozing out of the bread. Just discovered you can buy Mama Lil’s Peppers online. I’m definitely picking up a bottle to make this grilled cheese again.

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This was a great way to celebrate National Grilled Cheese Day.

Who Says I Can’t Drink Wine Out of a Glass Mug?!?

Rosé season has arrived. With rising temperatures I think of grass between my toes, frogs croaking in the pond, my raised beds sprouting with future eats and sipping Rosé  while enjoying a late sunset. Miss Pepsi kept me company as I enjoyed my first glass of Rosé.

I actually don’t have a specific wine I like. I am a typical consumer, I picked based on looks. Pretty packaging goes a long way for me. Notorious Pink caught my eye at the store. Loved the sleek look and the pretty glass cork. It was on sale from 23.99 to 15.99. Not bad. It was more on the peachy-orangey hue than a pink-rosy shade. Not the smoothest Rosé I’ve ever had, not too sweet either, but I’d probably buy it again. I sipped happily from my pretty glass mug. I don’t do stem wine glasses in my home especially with my kids and my glass pushing happy kitties.

I saw an article online on Food and Wine for 40 oz. bottles of Rosé. EEEEKKKKK!!!  I would happily drink that 40 out of brown paper bag. Sadly, it seems it hasn’t made it’s way to Maine yet.

 

Miss Jasmine the Tree Cat

Somehow I’ve become a magnet for cats. My mother says it’s good luck when cats seek your help. I must be damn lucky because I’ve already lost count on the number of cats I’ve rescued. Definitely, more than 50! Well, like I always say “Everything happens for a reason.” It was love at first sight when I laid eyes on Jasmine. I was bringing a feral kitten I had just caught to the local Humane Society when one of the workers told me to look into one of the cat condos. Jasmine was sitting with a litter mate and my arm didn’t have to be twisted too hard to convince me to adopt Jasmine.

Jasmine came home 1 week before Thanksgiving 2015. She has been so loved ever since. The Humane Society suggested they thought she was a Norwegian Forest cat. She shares some similarities, but I’m sure she’s not. Though she loves being outside. I was hesitant to allow her to be an outdoor cat. I live in the “country” with a ton of woods in the back, yet close to a road that people fly through. Tons of predators – bald eagles, fox, coyote, owls and fisher cats. She begged and begged  to go outside. Finally I let her go when she was a year and a half. She’s been the happiest cat ever since.

Jasmine spends her days roaming the forest, playing along the brook and of course climbing the trees.

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Fried Chicken Steamed Bun Sammie

Steamed buns have yet to slow down moving from hipster status to mainstream finding its way to Central Maine. I love these pillowy soft steamed buns great stuffed with basically anything or just munched on its own.

In Thailand, we enjoy this type of bread in a stuffed bun form called “salapao” in Thai or “baozi” in Chinese. I’ve had a bag of Red Lotus Special flour which is used to make the steamed buns for way over a year. I’ve been trying and trying to make them on my own but alas no time as usual. So I was so happy to discover they were sold at the Veranda Asian Market in Portland. They’re in the frozen section and steam in no time. It’s great to have in your freezer when you need a quick snack. This Chimei brand is nice because it’s a good size (pretty wide) and has a good thickness so it can be overstuffed and not fall apart.

I’ve filled it with duck, pork loin and pork belly. Today I had a craving for Chik-fil-A so I just had to make fried chicken. Super simple sandwich that packed a lot of flavor. I made a maple-honey mustard sauce that paired deliciously with the fried chicken, and the bread and butter pickles balanced the whole sandwich out. I think steamed buns have become so popular because though they let the sandwich ingredients stand out, the bread itself still doesn’t get overshadowed. This is a great way to enjoy the buns, and I’ll definitely be making it more often than not.

Maple-Honey Mustard Sauce – Mix all ingredients

2 T.  Mayo (I used Kewpie)

3 T. Yellow Mustard (I used French’s)

2 T. Dijon Mustard (I used Grey Poupon)

1 T. Barbecue Sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray’s)

1/2 T. honey

1/2 T. maple syrup

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Simple Fried Chicken

1 Chicken breast sliced thin, 2-3 inches in size (bun is small remember)

Dredge: Mix all ingredients

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup semolina flour (This gives the chicken a nice crispy crust)

1 t. salt

1 t. white pepper

1 t. garlic powder

Batter: Mix all ingredients

1 cup all purpose flour

3/4 cup water

1 T. soy sauce

1/2 T. Sriracha

Steamed Buns – steamed 5 minutes (I used a bamboo steamer)

Bread & Butter Pickles

Fry Oil (350 degrees)

1.) Make mustard sauce.

2.) Dip chicken pieces in flour dredge, then batter and then dredge again. Fry until golden.

3.) Steam buns while chicken is frying.

4.) Assemble – pickles, then chicken, and then drizzle with mustard sauce.

 

 

 

Huong’s Vietnamese Restaurant – New Eats

I generally stick to Thanh Thanh 2 on Forest Ave. in Portland when I need a pho fix, but I recently discovered there’s another Vietnamese restaurant on St. John’s St. The place is called Huong’s Vietnamese Restaurant and it certainly did not disappoint. It’s nothing super fancy, but the service is super friendly and they do serve a great pho. I had a large classic pho ($8.95) that was full of braised brisket, super thin beef slices, beef meatballs and tripe. Tons of noodles. It was huge and super filling. I didn’t need to add anything to it to amp up the flavor. The broth might be a tad on the sweeter side, but still super satisfying. I also tried their fried squid. Super tender squid and a huge portion for $13.95.

Thanh Thanh 2 still holds a special place in my belly especially for their lemongrass pork, but it’s nice to have another option. So if you’re ever want a pho fix in Portland head to Huong’s right on St. John’s St. right off Congress St. just down the road from the Greyhound Station and Maine Medical Center. Also, it’s between 2 pretty awesome Asian markets – Hong Kong Market on Congress St. and Makot Pech on St. John St. Hong Kong Market is run by a nice Chinese family that always play classical music. They have a good variety of Asian foods, but are concentrated more on Chinese items. Once a week they get a shipment of Chinese pastries from Boston Chinatown which is a nice treat. Makot Pech is run by a super sweet Cambodian family. It’s a super small market, but they have a lot of Southeast Asian food supplies. They also carry some great Southeast Asian fruits like jackfruit and rambutan when in season. You can kill 2 birds with 1 stone when eating at Huong’s – great lunch and a great market trip.

Super Easy Taro Chips

No mandolin, no problem. You can get super thin and crispy chips with a simple vegetable peeler. I used a slightly serrated peeler from William and Sonoma. I am also partial to Kuhn peelers as well. Such a simple design, but it’s perfect. Super sharp, lasts forever and a great price. By using a peeler though versus a mandolin, the cuts aren’t as uniform. You’ll get more irregular shapes, but I like the more rustic look for chips.

Taro is a starchy root vegetable that is enjoyed savory and sweet in Asian cuisine. In Thailand, it’s often used for dessert. I love fried taro that is sold along the street in Thailand most often with fried bananas. I’ve had a hard time finding it in Thailand my last few visits. It’s a pretty old school treat that’s quickly disappearing unfortunately. I didn’t have time to try to attempt Thai style fried taro that needs a batter so I thought these fried chips would satisfy my craving for taro. Taro can be found in most Asian markets. I bought this tuber at Veranda Asian Market on Forest Ave. in Portland. It’s super clean, organized and has such an extensive array of Asian foods I no longer need to drive to Boston.

All you need is:

1.) Taro, sliced with a veggie peeler

2.) veggie oil heated to 350 degrees (I’m lucky I have a deep-fryer, but if you use a pot use enough oil to cover the taro when frying)

3.) salt and sugar in equal parts to taste (I used coarse sea salt)

Fry until golden around the edges. The chips fry pretty quickly as the peeler does give you fairly thin slices. Toss the crispy taro chips with salt and sugar.

I love the combination of salty and sweet just little kettle popcorn. Super addictive. Next time I make these I bet they would taste great with toasted shredded coconut.

It’s such a super easy way to enjoy taro, you must try.

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