Thursday, September 26, 2013

Chocolate Rice Crispy Treats

Let me start by saying that I absolutely hate marshmallows. Sometimes I think what's there not to like about them--they're all sugar--but then I give them a try and remember that just I don't like them. But they're usually okay with other things. For example these rice crispy treats I made are so delicious! Home made rice crispy treats are so much better than the kind you buy in a store.

Chocolate Rice Crispy Treats
40 large marshmallows (or 3 cups miniature ones)
5 c. crisp rice cereal
1/3 c. butter (I naturally used just a little more than called for)
3/4 c. Semi-sweet chocolate chips divided into 1/2 c. and 1/4 c. portions

Melt butter over low heat then add 1/2 c. chocolate chips, and then marshmallows. Stir until melted. When the marshmallows and chocolate are completely melted mix in the rice cereal. Mix well. "Pour" this mixture into a well greased dish, sprinkle 1/4 c. chocolate chips on top and compress with the back of a well greased spoon.

Pro Tip: Soak the pot for a long time before cleaning because melted marshmallow is really hard to scrub off.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Reid State Park, Georgetown, Maine - Best Beach in Maine

I really wanted to go to the beach once more before the summer ended. But, it was too cold cold to enjoy laying out on the beach so instead of going to Popham Beach (our usual place) we went to Reid State Park home of Mile Beach and Half Mile Beach.

Though it looked like it was further away than Popham Beach, it didn't seem to take nearly as long to get there. We passed through quaint Georgetown on our way there and we saw a rock painted like a turtle. At the last road we turned on, there was a rock painted with an American flag. I didn't think fast enough to get a picture.

We got there and got out of the car and it was a beautiful day in the mid 60s. The sun was shining and there were just enough clouds in the sky to make things look interesting.

We stopped at East Beach first. The grains of sand there were very large like tiny pebbles and there were rocks. We looked at the tide pools along the rocky shore and watched people fishing for a bit. 

There was a nice picknick area above this beach with a swing!

We went for a long walk around and took a picture together by the lagoon. Then we went back to our car and drove it to the parking lot for Mile Beach (I assume it is at least a whole mile long because I used RunKeeper to track this "hike" and we hiked about 3 miles).

I had remembered to bring my kite to the beach this time. I bought it about three or four years ago and this is the first time we flew it. It was loads of fun. Though I was worried that it would fly away because it was so windy!

I took the kite back to the car and we walked to the end of the beach.

On my way back, I thought I lost my precious COLBY water bottle but  my husband he reminded me that I had left it in the car.

Interesting Patterns in the Sand

We found a hut made out of drift wood. I can't wait to come back next year and see if it is still there.

The hiking fanny pack in action.

Sand Plovers. They looked so cute looking for food in the surf.

I cannot wait to go back sometime and see Half-Mile Beach!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

So Much Ham

Last week, ham was on sale at the grocery store for 88¢ a pound. We try to economize as my husband is a teacher and I am lawyer but I am working temporarily at a non-profit. So we bought the smallest one we could find and it weighed seven pounds.

It was so delicious but there was a lot left over (including the bone which is sitting in our freezer waiting to be made into stock). So far we've made two dinners out of the leftover ham and we still have at least one more dinner's worth of ham in the fridge.

The ham was great the first time around and both of the recipes were too delicious not to share! The soup was even better as a left over at lunch.

Broccoli and Ham Bake*

1lb bag frozen broccoli, defrosted (cuts work fine here but you can use florets)
2 c. cubed cooked ham
2 T butter or olive oil
2 T all purpose flour
1/2 t seasoning salt (can omit)
1/4 t pepper
1/4 t dry mustard
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1 c. milk†

Heat the oven to 350º and grease a casserole dish. Defrost the broccoli (if you prefer mushier vegetables do more than just defrost the broccoli and cooking it a little bit). Melt butter in pot (or heat up oil) and whisk in the flour. Add the salt, pepper, and mustard. Cook the flour for two minutes. Whisk in the milk, then stir in the cheese. After the cheese is well mixed in (after 2 or 3 minutes), add the defrosted broccoli and cubed ham. Mix and add to the greased casserole dish. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

* I believe this recipe came from the outside of a bag of broccoli because all I have is a index card with no source info and the ingredients say 1 pakgage of broccoli florets.

† FYI I always use skim milk in recipes even if the recipe just calls for milk since I drink skim milk and that's what we have on hand.

Ham and Potato Soup
(Original Recipe from Here)

1 qt. broth (I used a quart of water and chicken better than bullion)
3 1/2 c. peeled and diced potatoes*
1 chopped onion
1 c. cubed cooked ham
1 c. frozen green peas
1/2 t. celery seed†
1 t pepper

5 T butter or olive oil
5 T all purpose flour
2 c. milk

Combine the first group of ingredients in a stockpot. Bring to a boil. Cook over medium heat until all the vegetables are tender. Melt butter or heat oil in a saucepan. Whisk in the flour and cook stirring contently for two minutes. Slowly whisk in milk and cook for 5 minutes until thick. Stir the milk mixture into the stockpot and mix thoroughly.

We were so hungry and this was so good that I did not get a picture of it. I cannot wait to make it again though. Next time I may play around with a different mix of vegetables because I love carrots in soup but we were out of carrots this week.

* My husband was in charge of dinner prep. He told me he just chopped lots things up and didn't pay close attention to the amounts so I am not sure if this recipe accurately reflects the quantity of chopped vegetables and ham used. I also just emptied the remainder of a bag of frozen peas into the stock pot. What can I say, cooking is an art.

† The original recipe calls for 1/3 cup of diced celery. I usually buy a bunch of celery dice it and freeze it to use as needed. We had no frozen celery and didn't pick up any when we did our weekly grocery store run so I looked on the internet and learned that you can substitute 1 cup of celery for 1 teaspoon of celery seed in recipes where all you really need is the celery flavor, like in this soup.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Birthday Recap

On Friday at work everyone "surprised" me with pizza, cake, and a nice scarf as a present. (Everyone gets a desert, pizza, and a present for their birthday so I knew it was coming and it wasn't really a surprise but I am happy to be working someplace where everyone is so nice and thoughtful.) I also got to leave work early to kick off my birthday weekend. I needed to pick up my mom because she had flown out to spend my birthday with me.

My Mom and Me at Dinner

I got caught in horrible traffic on the way to get her though. It was so bad it reminded me of being home in Chicago. So now I won't feel homesick for a while. The worst part was that I was stuck all by myself. It would have been just fine being stuck in the car with my mom. But I felt so bad that she was waiting all by herself.

When we got back to my house, I started making oven fajitas for dinner. They were delicious and we had extra fixings since my mom thought guacamole and was an essential item.

My mom bought us delicious wild blueberry pie at the grocery store for dinner and we had that for desert.

The next day was my birthday! I knew my mom would want to go to Freeport for some shopping and I was happy to oblige. On the way to the outlets we stopped at the Bow Street Market and got two of my favorite drinks--Capt'n Eli's Blueberry Pop and CuriousTraveler's Shandy. The Shandy is a delightful beer that even I like and I am a not a beer drinker. They don't carry it at the regular grocery store. 

We went shopping. My mom got new work clothes. I was sorely tempted by the Oxford cloth button front shirts at Vineyard Vines as they were 30% off. We went to the Coach outlet and my mom got me a new navy blue cross body purse because she wasn't able to fit the largest present she bought me in her suitcase.

On our way back from the stores we stopped at the Mediterranean Grill for lunch. It was delicious! I had a chicken sandwich. I can't wait to go back because the menu discretion for the gyros makes it sound like they have real ones 

We went home and walked around downtown. I am so fortunate to live in a town with a unique and thriving downtown. We stopped into a home goods store and I picked up an early Christmas present for my husband.

My Birthday Cake!

My husband used the time we were out shopping to go get my birthday cake. I had requested a store bought cake. Homemade cake is nice enough but I just love the frosting on the cakes from the cakes from the store.

Only the best lobster houses have giant mutant lobsters.

I had the hardest time trying to decide where to eat my birthday dinner. I was trying to decide between my favorite nice place, Richard's, a new place, Enoteca Athena, and the lobster house, Cook's. We ended up going to Estes Lobster House because my mother in law suggested it when we called to see how many of their family would be joining us for dinner. I was so glad she suggested it! The menu was a little simpler and a little less expensive but the atmosphere was extra kitschy (I consider this a plus) and the food was delicious!

A lobsterman?

My husband got fried clams instead of the scallops he
ordered so he got two dinners instead of one.
While I think clams are gross, they do taste just fine fried.
My theory holds.

As I mentioned, I loved the decor.

My lobster mac n cheese with a double side of fries
was so 

After dinner, we went back to my apartment, ate cake and ice cream, and I opened my presents! My husband got quite a few quality action shots.

My presents.

This is my favorite. It's so flattering.

This is a good one too! In terms of oddest facial expression ever.

My mom got me a vera bradley home and away
cosmetic case. But I already have one. :/
I told her I liked it so much I had already gotten it myself. 

Now I have all the Skylanders Giants
except for Ninjini.

The next day my mom, my husband, and I went to Broadway Deli for brunch. And, the my mom had to head back to the airport. : ( But I got doughnuts in Portland right before dropping her off.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

"Healthier" Downeast Pumpkin Bread

Unfortunately it's fall now (or at least it was until is was 90º yesterday). So it's cold and I can't wear most of my Lilly shifts but every cloud has a silver lining. Now, it's time for pumpkin everything. My favorite thing to make this time of year (and any time when I have a can of pumpkin) is Downeast Pumpkin Bread. This is the reduced fat, reduced sugar version, more whole wheat version. The original recipe can be found at

Downeast Pumpkin Muffins
Makes 36 muffins


1-15 oz can pumpkin puree
4 eggs
1 c. unsweetened applesauce (instead of vegetable oil or melted butter)
2/3 & 1 oz water
1 c. white sugar
1 c. brown sugar*

2 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 T baking soda
3/4 t salt
1 t ground cinnamon
1 t ground nutmeg
1/2 t grond cloves
1/4 t ground ginger


Preheat oven to 350ºF and grease three muffin pans. Mix the first group of ingredients (the wet ingredients and the sugar) in a large bowl. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Pour into the muffin tins. Bake for 30 minutes. Muffins are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. This recipe can also be used to make loafs. Bake loafs for 55 min.

*I prefer dark brown sugar since it has more molasses in it and molasses makes me think of New England

Details of the Changes to the Recipe
This recipe had more of what I want and less of what I usually don't want. I usually want less fat and less sugar (for fewer calories over all) and I want more protein and fiber. Here I got fewer calories from sugar and fat and more fiber.

Nutrient Original
Calories 175 95
fat (g) 6.9 1
protein (g) 2 2
fiber (g) 0.7 2
sugar (g) 17.1 12

I accomplished this improved nutrient profile by reducing the sugar by a third, replacing half the flour with whole wheat flour (more fiber), and by using apple sauce instead of the liquid fat. When you're baking quick breads, these are always things you can do reduce the calorie count. Whole wheat flour is heavier that white flour so you may want to add in extra baking soda or powder to ensure that the bread rises.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Take Me Out to the Ball Game . . .

A professional group that I am a part of had a night out at the Portland Sea Dogs game (a AA Red Sox Affilate)! I was really excited to go because they have a weekly happy hour. But I never go. I don't like drinking around people I don't know well and I'd much rather spend my money on clothes or candy.

The Blimp

Our tickets came with all you could eat food so we had dinner at the game and we both had two Sea Dog Biscuits (ice cream sandwiches). I got to catch up with a friend from school that I had not seen in forever! I left my phone in the car but I had my camera so I got a few pictures.

My Play by Play Announcer

The game was fun and fast. The Sea Dogs won! Minor League games are full of silly contests for children between innings. There were a number involving lobsters and fishermen since this is Maine. And there was a race between a lobster, a Maine potato, and a blueberry.

When the won, a light house came out and fireworks went off!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Everybody to the Bat Cave

L.L. Bean's  Day Trekker Lumbar Pack

I got a lumbar pack to use when hiking. We like taking short day hikes. I hate wearing a backpack while hiking since it just sticks to my back and makes my shoulder sore. So I thought I'd try out a glorified fanny pack that can hold two bottles of water. I looked so cool that there are no pictures of me wearing it but it got the job done.

We headed to Bradbury Mountain State Park and took the path less traveled. Instead of heading up one of the many paths that take you to the top of the mountain, we went to the other side of the park. It was less crowded than the other side.

This trail was so confusing! It wasn't a hard trail
but it was super hard to follow! We abandoned it after getting
really, really turned around and so we went to the bat cave.

There were lots of ferns.

The rangers built boardwalks thru the swamp.

The Trail to the Bat Cave!

This must be the bat cave,
it was not as exciting as I expected.

A Place to Sit

We had a good time and my pack worked out nicely. I can't wait to take it for another hike. But, in the future I will manage my expectations better as I expected to see a real cave and maybe even a bat (or BATMAN) on the Batcave trail.