Maine, Where Memories Are Made

It Must Be Maine; The Way Life Should Be

After spending five delightful summers at our lakeside cottage in Maine, I have to say that the above state slogan is very appropriate although I think it could be, Maine, Where Memories Are Made. My husband and I have enjoyed experiencing the natural beauty of its rugged ocean coastline, lakes and mountain vistas and indeed have wonderful memories of our time spent in Maine.

Click on any of the photos in the photo galleries to see a slide show.

In my first post on Back Road Journal, Let’s Take A Ride I wrote,  “many people wish they could have a little place to escape to…by a lake, in the mountains, on a sandy beach or wherever their dreams take them. No matter where, no matter how small a place we find, we all enjoy a little freedom from our everyday life.” When we found our little cottage, we thought the location was perfect…on a lake with its own little beach, in the picturesque small town of Naples in the Lakes Region of Maine only two hours from our New Hampshire home.

The Waterfront Lawn Of The Cottage Has Been Professionally Landscaped

Our Little Maine Cottage On Long Lake, Naples, Maine

Our Private Little Beach

Our Private Little Beach

The small house which everyone referred to as a camp needed “a little work“. We turned the camp into a cute little cottage decorated with a mixture of old and new, making it an easy to care for summer getaway.

Summers were spent enjoying the slow pace that Maine seems to be all about. Countless books were read in the shade, gardens were tended and short excursions to other parts of the state were enjoyed.

Living on the lake meant that there was always the opportunity to spend time on the water with our family or friends boating or jet skiing.

A cocktail was often had at the end of our dock as we watched loons swim by, spectacular sunsets or the evening fireworks celebrating the 4th of July.

Of course there was great eating involved. Foremost on everyone’s list when they came to visit us at the lake was lobster and chowder, followed closely behind by steaks, burgers and chicken hot off the grill and a few s’mores made around the fire.

Each fall when we closed down the cottage, we would say a little “goodbye” and hoped the cottage, gardens and the little critters we befriended would survive though the hard winter snows. Come spring, we were always anxious to open the cottage for another year of summer fun in Maine.

View Of The Mountains At Sunset From The Dock

View Of The Mountains At Sunset From The Dock

This summer will be a little different as we have sold the cottage. The rooms may be empty of furniture and art but as we head back to New Hampshire we know that we are leaving the cottage a much better place than it was before. It is now time for others to come to our little place on the lake in Maine, Where Memories Are Made.

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Southwestern Salad

Summer has officially arrived and during the hot weather people often enjoy a salad for lunch or dinner. Salad plates piled high with fresh vegetables will fill you up but can sometimes be boring but they don’t have to be. A Southwestern Salad, a Cobb salad with a Mexican flair, is a great meal for warmer weather. It is a colorful, great tasting and good for you as it has a larger ratio of vegetables to protein.

Southwestern Salad

A Southwestern Salad, A Cobb Salad With A Mexican Flair

If you are grilling over the weekend, add a few extra chicken thighs or breasts to use for this salad during the week. A rotisserie chicken from your local market is also good in this dish. You can prep many of the ingredients ahead of time (except the avocado) and keep them in separate containers in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble the salad. The recipe is easily doubled or even tripled to feed a large group and served either as a main course or side dish to go along with a Mexican themed dinner party.

Southwestern Salad

Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a side, adjust the recipe accordingly

Vinaigrette: In a small bowl, combine 1/3 c. olive oil, juice from 1/2 lime (3 Tbsp.), 1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh cilantro, 1/2 tsp. cumin, 1/8 tsp. garlic powder, 1/8 tsp. onion powder, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. black pepper, and a few shakes of green Tabasco. Whisk well to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.

Grilled Chicken: Pound a large chicken breast to even out the thickness, generously season with salt, pepper and cumin, drizzle with some olive oil, and squeeze a little lime or lemon juice over it. Let the chicken marinate for 10 minutes while you heat the grill to medium high. Grill the breast about 3 minutes, turn and cook until done, about another 2 or 3 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chicken. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes, then slice. Drizzle with a little of the vinaigrette.

Corn: Add 1 Tbsp. olive oil to a skillet and sauté 1/4 of a small red onion, chopped until translucent. Add 1 red or green jalapeño pepper, diced and 1 clove of garlic, minced and cook for 1 minute. Add 1 c. frozen corn, thawed (canned may be substituted) and season with 1/2 tsp.  cumin, then salt and pepper to taste. Sauté for a few minutes until the corn is cooked. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Tomatoes: In a small bowl, combine 1 c. grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered, 1/4 of a small red onion, chopped, 1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro and 1 Tbsp. of the vinaigretteSalt and pepper, to taste. Stir and let rest for 10 minutes for the flavors to meld.

Black beans: Wash and drain well 1 can of black beans and season with 1/4 tsp. each of oregano, garlic powder and onion powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Add some of the vinaigrette, toss well and let rest for 10 minutes for the flavors to meld.

Avocado: Cut an avocado in half, remove the pit, peel and cut into chunks. Squeeze a little lime juice over it to keep it from turning brown. Drizzle with a little of the vinaigrette and gently mix. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if necessary.

Eggs: Peel 2 hard-boiled eggs and cut into quarters.

Cheese: Crumble or shred a small block of cheese. You can use a Mexican cheese such as Cotija or queso fresco, feta, Monterey jack, cheddar or a blue cheese.

To Prepare The Salad: Add about 4 – 5 cups of romaine lettuce, washed, dried and cut into bite size pieces to a large bowl, season with a little salt and pepper and toss with just enough of the dressing to lightly coat. Place the lettuce on a large platter and arrange the chicken, avocado, corn, black beans, tomatoes, eggs and cheese in neat rows on top. Serve with wedges of lime and any remaining vinaigrette on the side.

Southwestern Salad Served In A Crisp Tortilla Bowl

Southwestern Salad Served In A Crisp Tortilla Bowl

You can serve this salad with everything tossed together but I prepared it in a large bowl with all the ingredients layered over the greens. I put crisp tortilla shells on individual plates and let each person create their own salad. Enjoyed along with a cooling pitcher of iced tea or margaritas, a cold beer or a glass of crisp white wine while sitting outdoors on a warm summer evening, you’ve got a filling and flavorful meal. I believe your family or guests will enjoy this colorful salad as each and every mouthful is a little bit different.

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A Tribute To Fathers

Fathers everywhere are being celebrated this Sunday. I would like to join in with A Tribute To My Father. I know how lucky I was to have had the opportunity to grow up knowing the love my father had for me. As we celebrate Father’s Day,  hopefully we all have had a chance sometime in our lives to tell our fathers how much their love, nurturing and guidance has meant to us and how it helped make us who they are today.

My Father, My Daddy

My Father, My Daddy

My father was always my Daddy, not Dad or father and I loved him like most little girls love their father. He always joked that I was his special gift as I was born on Father’s Day, I was my Daddy’s little girl.

He was not a famous person, just an ordinary man who did his best in life. He served his country with honor and provided a good home for my mother, brother and myself, like most fathers do.

He was a gentle and kind-hearted man who I never heard complain about anything. He was a strict parent but in a loving way. I was brought up to be respectful of others, always saying “please, thank you, yes ma’am or yes sir and may I be excused”.  He always made sure that I apologized if I had done something wrong and taught me the importance of saying “I’m sorry” if I had hurt someone else’s feelings.

He was the person I knew I could go to with a problem because he was a good listener and gave good advice. He used to always say, “just because you are a girl, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it”. His encouragement is one of the things that has guided me though out my life.

My Daddy was special to me but also to so many others in his community. Everyone used to call him “the mayor” because of his commitment to the neighborhoods that surrounded our ranch in Texas. He seldom missed a County Commissioners Court meeting, he served as bailiff, and was a volunteer at the local hospital.

I’m lucky to have had a good father in my life. He is gone now but certainly will not be forgotten. I am lucky to have another man in my life that is special and that is my husband. He too, is a father whose children love him and will be remembering him on this special day.

I want to wish each father a “Happy Father’s Day”. Whether you spend the day at an outdoor barbecue with family and friends or perhaps playing a round of golf, I hope you enjoy your day. I’m sure your loved ones will be remembering you today.

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An Italian Frittata, A Quick Meal With Lots Of Flavor

An Italian Frittata, A Quick Meal With Lots Of Flavor is great any time of the day. It is similar to an omelet but is much easier to prepare as it doesn’t require being folded over onto itself so it is a good recipe for even a beginner cook to try. A slice of this tasty egg dish is wonderful served hot but is also delicious at room temperature or even cold.

Spinach, Sun Dried Tomato and Goat Cheese Frittata

Spinach, Sun Dried Tomato and Goat Cheese Frittata

Sautéed, garlicky spinach, sweet sun dried tomatoes and creamy goat cheese were mixed with farm fresh eggs from our friends free ranging chickens and then baked to create this easy and very flavorful dish.

Spinach, Sun Dried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese Frittata Hot From The Oven

Spinach, Sun Dried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese Frittata Hot From The Oven

This is another one of those recipes that comes together quickly so I would suggest that you have everything prepped before you start cooking.

Spinach, Sun Dried Tomato and Goat Cheese Frittata 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

  • 6 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp. half and half or cream (milk may be substituted)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp. grated Pecorino Romano cheese (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 oz. (about 1/4 c.) sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, chopped
  • 8 – 10 oz. fresh baby spinach, chopped (frozen may be substituted)
  • 1/4 tsp. oregano
  • 1/8 tsp. each of garlic powder and onion powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 oz. goat cheese ( 1/2 of a small log), sliced

Whisk the eggs, half and half, Romano cheese, salt and pepper together in a bowl. Heat the butter and olive oil in a 10 inch ovenproof, nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and sun dried tomatoes and cook for another minute. Add the spinach, season with oregano, garlic powder, onion powder,  salt and pepper and sauté until wilted and any liquid from the spinach has evaporated. Taste and adjust for additional seasoning, if necessary. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables and cook, lifting the edges of the frittata to allow the uncooked egg to flow underneath, until the mixture begins to set around the edges, 2 to 3 minutes. Dot the top of the frittata with the goat cheese, transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until puffy and golden on top, about 10 – 15 minutes. Slide onto a plate and let rest for several minutes before slicing. The frittata can be served either hot or at room temperature.

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If you love eggs but have trouble making an omelet, try making a frittata. This flavorful Italian egg dish is very versatile and can be made with left over pasta, meat, vegetables or cheese that you want to use. Remember, eggs are not just for breakfast and can be part of a quick and easy meal anytime of the day. Serve the frittata with a green salad and a piece of crusty garlic bread and you will have a nice lunch, dinner or a classic brunch item to serve you, your family and friends.

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Three Years On The Back Roads

“Little Treasures discovered while exploring the back roads of life.” Little did I realize when I wrote those words three years ago when I started Back Road Journal that the treasures I would find along the way would be the friendship of others. I had no idea that my first post would eventually lead to thousands of followers from all over the world, many of whom now feel like old friends. Followers who not only have read the articles that I written but have left tens of thousands of comments in return.

I hope you will join me as I celebrate three fun years of blogging and the friendships made on the delightful journey. Whether sharing a recipe that I have created, showing you my gardens and orchard as they have grown through the seasons, or taking you with me on my adventures throughout New England or Europe through my photos, you have followed along and sharing your thoughts on the subjects I have written about.

My And My Constant Companion…The Computer

Me And My Constant Companion…My Laptop

One of the nicest comments about Back Road Journal was written by the Oracle, writer at The Boston Harbor Picayune

“Every once in a while you find a blog that knocks it out of the park. The Back Road Journal is one of those blogs. The Author travels easily from wonderful recipe posts, like Roasted Grapes, A Sweet And Savory Appetizer, Photo Essays like A Splash Of Summer Color, to historical essays on New England, like A Step Back In Time. The overall portrait of Rural New England life is complete, and the journey is light, fun and informative. This blog is one of those you need to read to be reminded that there are still beautiful places left in our little corner of the world and that wonderful people still inhabit them.”

My writings on Back Road Journal have led me to other bloggers who share common interests. I have gotten to know your names, where you live, and what happens in your daily lives. I have shared many of your stories and photos with my husband who now feels like he knows you as well. Each day, I look forward to seeing what you write about next…perhaps where your travels will take you, what foods you prepare for your families, and even learning the names of common items that are called something different in your part of the world.

“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Blogging has been a wonderful experience in my life and the circles keep growing larger. New readers stop by everyday and I look forward to their return. Hopefully they will leave comments over time so that I can get to know each of them better. Over the past years, I have worried about the bloggers that I visit and their blog hasn’t been updated in weeks or months. I can’t help but wonder what has happened to them. I hope that they have just gotten too busy to blog and that no problems have arisen in their life. You can’t help but care and wish the best for every person that passes your way.

Three years on the back roads has been an enriching experience. I want to take this time to thank each and every one of you that have made my life so interesting over these past years and hope that you will enjoy stopping by again soon.

“True friendship multiplies the good in life”. Baltasar Gracian

 

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Shrimp Scampi With Spaghetti And Garlicky Breadcrumbs

For those busy days when you think there is no way you can prepare dinner because you are either too tired or don’t have enough time,  think about making Shrimp Scampi With Spaghetti And Garlicky Breadcrumbs. In 30 minutes or less, you can have a delicious meal on your dinner table that will get rave reviews from those you serve it to.

Spaghetti, Scampi And Garlic Crumbs

Shrimp Scampi With Spaghetti And Garlicky Breadcrumbs

Succulent shrimp are sautéed with butter, olive oil, garlic, white wine and lemon juice then tossed with spaghetti or your favorite pasta and finished with a sprinkling of garlicky breadcrumbs that add both taste and texture to the spaghetti. The nice thing about this recipe is that if you do a little planning when purchasing your food for the week, everything you need comes from staples you have in your pantry, fridge or freezer. The Italian word “scampi” refers to a particular type of shellfish found in Italy but in the US, the word “scampi” usually refers to a dish prepared with shrimp, butter, garlic and wine that has been popular in Italian-American restaurants for years. You will often see scampi served as an appetizer along with toasted bread for sopping up the tasty sauce or served over linguine or spaghetti as an entrée. This pasta dish is so quick and easy to prepare that you should skip ordering it in a restaurant and make it at home. Both your family and pocketbook will thank you. When you have a recipe that cooks very quickly, it is important that you have all your ingredients prepped ahead of time and sitting next to your stove.

Shrimp Scampi With Spaghetti

Serves 2, adjust the recipe accordingly

  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil plus an additional 2 Tbsp. for the pasta
  • 1/2 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined (you can cut them in half if using very large shrimp)
  • 3 – 4 cloves garlic,  minced
  • 1/4 tsp. red chili flakes or to taste
  • 1 tsp. anchovy paste, optional
  • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 c. white wine
  • 1/2 c. shrimp broth*
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced (I used 2 Tbsp. of the lemon juice)
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 oz. dry spaghetti, per person (amount depends on personal preference)
  • 1/4 c. Garlicky breadcrumbs**   

*To add extra flavor, buy shrimp with the shells on and peel them yourself. Put the shells in a small pot with a cup of water and boil them until the liquid is reduced by half and use it when preparing the sauce. You could also use clam broth, if desired. **To make the breadcrumbs, add 1 Tbsp. olive oil to a small sauté pan and add 1 garlic clove finely minced. Cook about 30 seconds and then add 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs (or homemade breadcrumbs) and cook until they just start to turn golden. Season with salt and pepper to taste, mix well and remove from the heat. Cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Reserve a little of the pasta water that may be needed for the sauce. Drain the pasta and place in a large bowl. Toss well with 2 Tbsp. of olive oil and the lemon zest. (Keep warm if ready before the sauce is finished). In a large sauté pan, melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the shrimp and cook, turning once, until they turn pink, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, anchovy paste, oregano, salt and pepper to the pan and cook about 30 seconds. Add the wine, shrimp broth, and lemon juice and cook until reduced to sauce like consistency, about 5 minutes. Add the pasta and the reserved shrimp and toss well. If  the pasta seems dry, add a little of the reserved pasta water. Place the pasta into bowls, sprinkle with chopped parsley, breadcrumbs and serve.

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You might wish to serve this pasta dish with grated cheese at the table but most Italians don’t think you should combine cheese and shellfish.  I will leave that to your individual taste. All that is really needed to complete this meal would be a mixed green salad, some crusty bread and a glass of chilled white wine. Even though you may be tired from a hard day’s work, you will have a terrific dinner ready to serve to your family in short order.

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Tips On Growing Tomatoes Successfully

Growing Tomatoes Successfully is a little like raising children, they both need nourishment, a warm home environment, and tender loving care. Whether you want to grow several rows of heirloom  tomatoes in a large vegetable garden in the country or just one cherry tomato plant in a pot on your sunny patio or balcony, the requirements for successfully growing tomatoes are the same. You will need seeds, containers, a good seed starting mix, water, plenty of light, warmth, and a little of your time. After a few months, the tomato plants you have lovingly cared for like little children should provide you with a bounty of tomatoes that you can enjoy throughout summer and into early fall.

A Bounty Of Tomatoes

A Bounty Of Tomatoes

Early each spring, I like to order my tomato seeds from one of the many online garden supply companies. They have hundreds of varieties of tomatoes that are not available as tomato transplants at my local garden center. I start my seeds indoors 8 weeks before I plan to plant them in my garden. In my area of New England, that means I start my seeds on the 1st of April and plant the tomatoes outdoors around the end of May when the threat of frost has passed. If I were to sow my tomato seeds directly in my garden in May, the tomatoes would take so long to grow that the first killing frost sometime in October would destroy the plants before I could get even one ripe tomato.

Starting Tomato Seeds

Starting Tomato Seeds

I plant the seeds in a light seed starting mix, water and cover the containers with kitchen plastic wrap. The seeds don’t need light to germinate but they do need warm soil so they need to be placed near a warm sunny window, on top of a refrigerator or special heating mats made for seed germination. This year I put them in a closet where the TV cable box provided the seeds with constant warmth. The majority of the seeds germinated in 5 days, much faster than in the past when I’ve placed them near a sunny window.

Tomato Seedlings Under Florescent Light

Tomato Seedlings Under fluorescent Light

The seedlings need 12 to 16 hours of light so once I saw tiny green sprouts, the plastic wrap was removed and they went under a fluorescent shop light. The light needs to be adjusted as they grow, staying about 3 inches above the plants. If you grow your seedlings by a sunny window, be sure to rotate the pots daily so that the plants will grow straight.

When the tomato seedlings are 3 or 4 inches tall and have their second pair of leaves, they go out to my potting shed to continue to grow. The potting shed is heated because the young plants need to be kept at about 65 to 70 degrees until they are ready to go into the garden. The shed gets lots of natural light from north and south facing windows and a skylight in its roof but I still use a fluorescent light over the young plants.

Now that they are 4 inches tall, they are ready to be transplanted into 4 inch pots. After carefully removing the little plant from its original growing cell, I gently loosen the roots at the base and around the sides of the root ball with a thin bamboo skewer. This will allow the young plant to quickly adjust to its new pot. Since the tomato stem can develop roots, each seedling is replanted right up to the lowest set of leaves. I continue to use the light seed starting mix even when potting up to a 6 inch pot as it lets the roots spread easily compared to regular potting soil which is denser and more compact.

Transplant Into 4 And 6 Inch Pots According To Growth Rate

Transplant Into 4 And 6 Inch Pots According To Growth Rate

Even though you plant all your seeds at the same time, you will notice that each seedling may grow at a different rate and they will have to be transplanted according to how quickly they grow.

Tomato Plants Being Hardened Off Outside The Potting Shed

Tomato Plants Being Hardened Off Outside The Potting Shed

You might call me an over protective parent as my tomato plants have spent their short lives protected from the cold, winds and rain in the warm, sunny potting shed. Because of that, they won’t do well if they go straight into the garden without being “hardened off”.

Harden Off The Tomato Plants Outside For Several Hours Each Day BeFore Planting In The Garden

Harden Off The Tomato Plants Outside For Several Hours Each Day BeFore Planting In The Garden

About two weeks before I intend to plant the tomatoes in the garden, I carry the plants outdoors for a few hours a day for a week, setting them in a sunny but protected spot that doesn’t get too much wind. During the second week, I leave them outside for most of the day if the weather is nice. I put them back in the potting shed in the late afternoon and water them well before placing them back under the lights. At this stage, some people leave them out over night but I don’t. There is always the threat of an unexpected storm that could blow them over and break them or worse yet, critters that would love to munch on their tender young leaves. No, they overnight in the safety of the potting shed.

Tomato Plants Happily Growing In My Heated Potting Shed

Tomato Plants Happily Growing In My Heated Potting Shed

By slowing acclimating them to the outdoors, my tomato plants should then be able to withstand the hot sun and strong breezes once they are planted in the garden.

The New Hampshire Garden Is Ready To Be Planted

The New Hampshire Garden Is Ready To Be Planted

The soil in the garden has been tilled and amended with aged manure and peat moss. Now I’m just waiting for the days to pass until I can safely transplant the tomatoes one last time at the end of May into the sunny garden at our New Hampshire home. Hopefully, I’ll have a successful growing season without too many challenges from nature and have a bountiful crop of tomatoes.

I wish you the same because the rewards of growing your own tomatoes from seed or starter plants bought from your local garden center will be evident with your first taste of a freshly picked vine ripened tomato. It doesn’t matter if the first tomato picked goes into a BLT sandwich, is simply sliced and drizzled with olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt, or chopped and tossed with pasta, olive oil, garlic and fresh herbs, the flavor is outstanding.

Just remember that the secret to a great tomato is to grow it yourself and I hope my tips will help you grow tomatoes successfully.

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