June 26, 2011

When Winter Finally Gives up the Ghost in Maine...a Celebration is in Order!

The big day is coming....we are on the countdown...all three grandbabies coming to The Maine House! This has been a dream of mine since we moved to New England over a year ago. We wanted to be able to share the fun and beauty of Maine with all the grandchildren. We have so many activities planned which will include, sailing, island hopping on the ferry, having lunch on one of the islands, a trip to Strawberry Banke (http://www.strawberybanke.org/ ) in New Hampshire, a visit to The Children's Museum in Old Port and numerous family dinners around Estelle's dining table. We want to reserve the most perfect of summer days for a family picnic and explore the hiking trails along the coastline of Maine. Now the only problem with this is deciding which coastal town we will visit! This will be the first visit to Grandma and Papa's new home for Noah and Abbie and we cannot hold back our excitement. Little Luke has visited twice before, so perhaps he can tell his older cousins some of his stories of Maine, such as his first Lobster boil!

When visiting Maine, these are top spots to enjoy a Picnic by the Coastline!

Wolf Neck Woods in Freeport is the only major breeding area in the United States south of Alaska for the common eider duck, which makes this site a duck lovers paradise. The Casco Bay Trail offers the contrasts of ocean-side walking and woodland shade, with picnic tables and grills along the way. Spend a couple of hours and listen to eider calls across the salt marshes.

Fort Popham is the best place to take kids on a picnic. There is the old granite block fort on the Kennebec River to explore, located at the end of Route 209 south of Bath. Then walk along the beach and watch whirl pools form where river meets sea. Seals often frolic here, and the fishing can be good as the tide comes in. At the end of all this fun comes the picnic, in sight of this historic place were construction began in 1862 during the Civil War.

 The Giant Steps beckon ledge lovers who like to sit on the rocks and watch the sea. On Bailey Island, take the first left after passing Mackerel Cove and park in front of the little church. Walk the path out onto the ledges. The Giant Steps are marked with a plaque. Shelter can be found among the rocks on a windy day, and this is a quiet getaway for people who like to watch gulls dive for fish and listen to the sea.

Ram Island Light, built in 1883, is off Ocean Point on the eastern side of  the mouth of Boothbay Harbor and can be reached by boat. Maine Maritime Museum runs excursions to this site during the summer months. This experience is a must for lighthouse lovers, who can sit in the grass or on the rocks with their picnic. Fragments of beach glass can be found in rock crevices, and there are still rams in residence to keep the grass clipped! Pick a sunny day for this excursion and enjoy a sparkling boat ride.

 Mast Landing Sanctuary in Freeport is one of the best areas in the Midcoast to watch birds and animals. Combine your hike with a picnic, but be aware that fires are not allowed here. Wear hiking shoes and pick up a trail map. If you are seeking a bit of solitude and some quiet time for contemplating wildlife this is an experience you don't want to miss. There are six hiking trails in the sanctuary, encompassing a total of three miles.

These are selected picnic recipes Estelle's has chosen for us, as we celebrate Papa's birthday by the shore! Grandbaby Luke loves to "Dip" most anything in a condiment or sauce. So for our Chicken Tenders, Estelle's is serving little side dishes of Ketchup, Mustard and Jezebel Sauce (found on a previous posting).

Smoked Paprika-Buttermilk Chicken Tenders
2 tablespoons smoked sweet paprika
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon granulated onion
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
2 pounds chicken tenders
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups all-purpose flour 
1 quart Mazola oil for frying
(why use Mazola oil? Because Grandmother did!)
1 lemon

Combine the smoked paprika, granulated garlic and onion, and poultry seasoning in a small bowl. Season the tenders with salt and pepper. Add 1/2 the spices to the buttermilk in a shallow dish. Combine the remaining spices with the flour, in a second dish.
Heat the oil in a heavy pot over medium to medium-high heat, about 350 degrees F.
Using tongs dip chicken in the buttermilk, then the flour and repeat. Add the breaded tenders to the hot oil; do not crowd the pan. Cook the fingers in batches to a deep golden color, about 8 minutes per batch. Drain on a wire rack over paper towels. Serve warm or at room temperature with wedges of lemon to squeeze on top.

 Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup cold buttermilk, shaken
1 cold extra-large egg
1 cup grated extra-sharp Cheddar
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water or milk

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place 2 cups of flour, the baking powder, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low, add the butter and mix until the butter is the size of peas. Combine the buttermilk and egg in a small measuring cup and beat lightly with a fork. With the mixer still on low, quickly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and mix only until moistened. In a small bowl, mix the Cheddar with small handful of flour and, with the mixer still on low, add the cheese to the dough. Mix only until roughly combined. Dump out onto a well-floured board and knead lightly about 6 times. Roll the dough out to a rectangle 10 by 5 inches. With a sharp, floured knife, cut the dough lengthwise in half and then across in quarters, making 8 rough rectangles. Transfer to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Brush the tops with the egg wash, sprinkle with salt, if using, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are browned and the biscuits are cooked through. Serve hot or warm.

Buttermilk Chocolate Cupcakes
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups good cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare cupcake cake pans with butter flavored cooking spray.  Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared cupcake pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then lift cupcakes out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

Salted Caramel Frosting
2 sticks butter
8 ounces or 1 package of Philly cream cheese
4 to 5cups powdered sugar
1 cup salted caramels

 Bring butter to room temperature by letting it sit out for 1 or 2 hours. Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed until creamy. Sift 3 cups of powdered sugar into the butter/cream cheese mixture and beat to combine. Add 1 cup of the salted caramels and beat to combine. Sift 2-3 cups of powder sugar, in 1 cup increments and beating between each, until you arrive at the thickness and sweetness you desire.  Frost cooled cupcakes with a generous amount of frosting. Sprinkle each cupcake with sea or kosher salt. Top with a caramel candy and pecan piece!


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