Friday, March 26, 2010

Maine Maple Day

If you read my last post, you might think that I’m obsessed about maple. But at the time, I didn’t realize that March 28th is Maine Maple Day (either that or I didn’t realize that I’m psychic!). In any event, how wonderful that this delicious concoction has its own day of celebration.

Did you know that maple producers in the state of Maine made 395,000 gallons of maple syrup in 2009? If you do the math, that’s nearly 16 million gallons of tree sap boiled down to sweet bliss.

This Sunday, sugar houses around the state will open their doors for tours, workshops, games, demonstrations, and – of course – samples. Stonewall Kitchen friend, L.L.Bean, is hosting its own Maine Maple Sunday at the Freeport location with activities throughout the day. We will be lending a hand by serving up our famous pancakes from 10:00am to 1:00pm at the Home Store. Come on by!

Meanwhile, the Maine Maple Producers Association has a recipe for baked beans that sounds like it might rival my mother’s.

Old-Fashioned Baked Beans

* 6 cups dried beans
* 2/4 to 1 lb. lean salt port or slab bacon on the rind
* 1 tablespoon dry mustard
* 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
* 1/3 cup Maine maple syrup
* 1 medium-sized onion, peeled and stuck with 2 whole cloves

Cover beans with boiling water, soak 1 hour, then drain. (This will remove some gas-causing compounds). Cover beans with cold water, bring to a slow boil and cook until skins split when the beans are blown on. Drain, saving liquid.

Drop the meat into a pan of boiling water, turn off heat and let sit for 5 or 10 minutes to remove excess salt. Drain and cut in half. Put half of the meat, rind down, on the bottom of your bean pot. Combine 1 cup bean liquid with the mustard, syrup, and pepper, then mix it into the parboiled beans.

Transfer this to the bean pot and bury the onion right in the middle. Pour in just enough additional bean-liquid or water to barely show through the top layer of beans. Cap with the remaining meat, set rind side out. Cover and bake 6 to 8 hours in a very slow (250 degree) oven, adding boiling water if necessary to keep beans from drying out. Uncover for last hour so top can get brown and crisp.

This recipe strikes me as being particularly Maine-like, with instructions that include sticking an onion with cloves, blowing on the beans, and burying the onion right in the middle. I will try this recipe and report my results at a later date. For more maple recipes, check out our database. See you in Freeport on Sunday!

P.S. Only a few more days to enter this month’s giveaway for an Herbes de Provence gift basket. If you haven’t already, click here to enter now.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Easter Entertaining

When it comes hosting a holiday, planning the dinner can be the biggest challenge! In case you missed Ina Garten on Tuesday's Today Show I'll share what I think was her best advice: keep it simple! There is no reason to be a stressed out host or hostess. Cook simpler dishes so you will still be able to enjoy your guests!

This Easter is the first major holiday that my husband and I are hosting. As my head started spinning with all of the preparation, I decided to pause, breathe, and simplify. Traditionally, our holiday family gatherings center around dinner. However, with 13 guests in a condo, seating that many people seemed daunting. My solution? Easter brunch buffet. I mean really, isn't a meal on a Sunday at 1pm more brunch than dinner anyway? I thought to myself, if I'm going to pull this off I need to plan ahead! Hopefully my advance planning can help you with you menu too.

-Champagne Bellini
- Bloody Marys (both with Stonewall Kitchen drink mixers)
- Old Farmhouse Chutney Cheeseball with french bread crostini toast
- Fresh Fruit
- Ask mom to bring an appetizer

- Maple Glazed Ham
- Macaroni & Cheese
- Oven Roasted Yams & Potatoes
- Baked Herb Eggs
- Glazed Green Beans

- Mini Carrot Cake Whoopie pies (to make them "mini" just use smaller spoonfuls of batter and keep an eye on them while baking for less time)
- Easter Cupcakes (see all of the Barefoot Contessa Baking Mixes here)
- Ask an Aunt to bring a dessert

Is anyone else out there starting to plan menus? Please share your ideas! Maybe you'll be a guest instead of a host this year. In that case don't forget to ask "what can I bring?" You can see more of our menu suggestions here!

What I haven't figured out yet is my decor. Luckily, I work here, and we have lots of great decorative spring items both online and in our stores!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Our Sweet 16

It's that time of year again, March Madness, where college basketball fans flock to fill out their brackets. Risk-takers choose a Cinderella team to go all the way so they'll be less likely to share the winnings. Me, I'd rather watch Cinderella the Disney movie with my favorite 5 year old than some of these games. However, with an Alma Mater like Syracuse, I can say that I've recently gotten more into the madness myself. This year, I even filled out my own bracket - with no help from my husband. (Please feel free to congratulate me on this accomplishment now)

As I was filling out my bracket I used techniques like I'd rather visit Florida than Utah (sorry BYU). However, when I got to the sweet 16 all I could think was: sweet? I like sweets ... yum, I'm hungry! So, in honor of March Madness starting today, I'd like to share with you Stonewall Kitchen's sweetest (as in most awesome and best selling) 16 products!

1) Wild Maine Blueberry Jam
2) Sea Salt Crackers
3) Red Pepper Jelly
4) Maple Chipotle Grill Sauce
5) 16oz Farmhouse Pancake & Waffle Mix
6) Roasted Garlic Onion Jam
7) 32oz Farmhouse Pancake & Waffle Mix
8) Hot Pepper Jelly
9) Mango Chutney
10) Rosemary Parmesan Crackers
11) Mini Wild Maine Blueberry Jam
12) Apple Cranberry Chutney
13) Old Farmhouse Chutney
14) Vidalia Onion Fig Sauce
15) Sesame Ginger Teriaki Sauce
16) Mango Lime Salsa

Luckily - you can work all of these tasty products into any college basketball party! Every sports gathering I know of begins with some Chillin' & Grillin' ... so grab #4, #14 & #15 and head out to your grill. Inside you can set out some trays of crackers, #2 & #10, and bowls of the following: #3, #6, #8, #9, #12, #13 for fun do-it-yourself Hors d'Oeuvres . These are so easy any sports fan can can do it: choose a cracker, add cheese (cream cheese or brie), add a topping & enjoy! Add a bowl of #16 and tortilla chips and you've got a party! I recommend you grab one of our pancake puff pans and save #1 (or #11) and #5 (or #7) and for the next morning! I hope you enjoy our sweet 16 with all of your March Madness basketball. Oh... and GO SYRACUSE!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Tap, Tap, Tappin’ on Heaven’s Door

While wandering the New Hampshire countryside recently, I spied with my little eye a few sure signs of Spring. The bright sunshine and unseasonably warm weather brought out the do-it-yourselfers, eager to clean up debris from the recent windstorm while there was no snow on the ground hindering the effort. The edges of the ice on area ponds and lakes started to melt. A few bird songs not heard for months floated in the air. Weathered metal buckets dangled precariously from tree trunks.

If you’re not from New England (or other parts Northern), you might not recognize the significance of that last sign. It’s sugaring time! You see, maple sap runs best when it’s still below 32° degrees Fahrenheit overnight, but daytime temperatures get between 40° and 50° degrees. The combination pushes the sap from the roots up into the trunk and branches where it freezes until the next day when the warmer temperatures get the sap flowing – through a tap and into those buckets.

Once collected, the sap is boiled, skimmed, and strained, and the ambrosia known as maple syrup is born. Did you know that it takes 10 gallons of sap to make one quart of syrup? True! Variations in boiling times produce other delightful textures such as maple sugar, maple butter, and maple cream. Who first thought to do this, I have no idea, but I’m so glad (s)he did! And compared to other popular sweeteners such as agave and high fructose corn syrup, maple syrup is low in fructose while being an excellent source of manganese and zinc. Who knew?

Though Vermont maple syrup is perhaps more famous, Maine maple syrup is equally great. Stonewall Kitchen offers Maine Maple Syrup in the 8.5 oz. glass jug and 16 oz. crock, individual serving size, and even a neat bottle that looks like a barn! Any one of which is perfect for making another New England treat – Sugar on Snow.

We also have a wonderful selection of products that utilize this most wonderful sweetener in nearly every course of your dinner. Start with Maple Mustard Dip on pretzels for an appetizer (though it also makes a delicious sauce for stir-fry). On your salad, drizzle on the savory/sweet combination of our Maple Balsamic Dressing. For the entrée, pulled pork is elevated to a new level when drenched in our best-selling, award-winning Maple Chipotle Grille Sauce. Or spruce up ham or beef with the divine combination of tangy, sparkly, and sweet in our Maine Maple Champagne Mustard. Of course, dessert loves maple, and what better (speaking of New England treats) than our spin on the classic Maine whoopie pie -- made even better when the cream filling is swirled with a dollop of Maple Pumpkin Butter.

I’m getting hungry. And already prepared for a good tooth-brushing when dinner’s done.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Easter Eggs

I'd like to apologize in advance for the shameless, horrible egg puns that I'm inevitably going to shell out over the course of this blog.

I thought I'd tackle one of the simplest, yet most vexing everyday challenges of the home kitchen: perfectly boiling an egg.

Nearly every basic cookbook offers conflicting techniques on how it should be done—start the egg in cold water, or gently lower it into boiling water; add vinegar to the water to lower its pH, or add baking soda to the water to raise it; cover the pot, don't cover the pot; use old eggs, or use new eggs, and on and on—but very few offer evidence as to why any one of these techniques should work any better than your average old wives' tale. Apparently, boiling is eggs-act science.

What Factors Matter When Boiling Eggs?

Age of the Eggs - "Old eggs are for boiling, fresh eggs are for frying," is what my mother told me. Well, it's a degree. As anyone who's had fresh-from the hen eggs will tell you, they do fry up beautifully, giving you tall, tall yolks, and tight whites, and trying to peel a very freshly laid boiled egg is difficult—the inner membrane of the shell has a tendency to stick to the white, giving the peeled egg a pockmarked appearance. But these differences disappear within a few days after the egg has been laid. Since eggs in the supermarket can spend up to 30 days before they even hit the shelf, followed by a further 30 days before they hit their expiration date, the point is pretty much moot. So long as you don't keep your own chickens, you can boil eggs with impunity.

Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs

Hard boiled eggs are a little complicated. The goal is to have both your white and your yolk at the point where they are opaque, but not rubbery. I was taught to place the eggs in cold water, bring them to a simmer, shut off the heat, and wait for a prescribed period of time (about ten minutes).

The best part about using this method is that even if you accidentally forget about your egg and leave it sitting in the water, there is no chance that it will overcook, because by the time the egg is done (about ten minutes), the water temperature has dropped far enough that the egg will stop cooking.. But for most practical purposes, this will deliver perfect hard boiled eggs every time.

Perfect eggs, but the yolk's on me—all this egg boiling has left me fried.

Or you could just use our electric egg cooker . . . .

Have a great deviled eggs recipe? Please share with us!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Has Spring Sprung?

Every year at this time I am cautiously optimistic that spring has sprung. The morning may still be cold, yes that says 36 degrees, but high temperatures in the 40's and 50's make me think that winter may finally be breaking! Don't get me wrong, I love winter. I find a snowy landscape breathtaking; and I certainly love to ski! However, come March I am looking at my kayak and longing to go out in my little boat!

So, I ask you readers, are you seeing signs of spring? At my condo we have a little garden and a few flowers have started to pop up - which is so very exciting! I've been seeing more people out walking, sweeping away the sand from their sidewalks and one of my neighbors finally took down their winter holiday wreaths! Perhaps if you live further south these signs of spring are old news - but here in northern New England these are very recent changes!

At Stonewall Kitchen we have our own signs of spring. These signs can be seen on the homepage of our website! Winter stews have made way for Easter Brunch ideas and spring linens. We've also started to sell our spring baking mixes including carrot cake whoopie pies and carrot cake muffins. Anything involving carrot cake is a favorite of my husband - so I've already made up a batch of the carrot cake whoopie pies! Oh dear, with every sentence I write I am getting more excited for spring... I hope it's really here!

Oh, and don't forget that this weekend it's time to change the clocks and spring ahead!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

And the Oscar goes to...

Best Picture:
Chocolate Swirl Coffee Cake

Best Actor in a leading role:
Wild Maine Blueberry Jam (by a landslide)

Best Supporting Actor:
Cranberry Horseradish Sauce

Thanks to everyone who voted!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Academy Awards Nominations - Vote here!

This Sunday, March 7th, 2010, is the 82nd Annual Academy Awards. To celebrate, we've decided to have our own academy awards. And guess what? Unlike the official academy awards, in our version your vote counts!

And the nominees are:

Best Picture: Traditional Crepe Mix, Sour Cream & Chive Potato Sticks, & Chocolate Swirl Coffee Cake

Actor in a Leading Role: Farmhouse Pancake Mix, Wild Maine Blueberry Jam, and Maple Chipotle Grille Sauce.

Add a comment to vote and don't forget to check back to see the winning products!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Step Right Up and Win Great Prizes!

For those readers who live in the Northeast, I hope your power has been restored (or that you never lost it in the first place), and you’re enjoying this blog in the warm comfort of your well-lit home. Anyone who didn’t have to endure last Thursday’s storm, well, I hope you too are enjoying this blog in the warm comfort of your well-lit home. Personally, it was the first time I’ve encountered hurricane-force winds when there wasn’t technically a hurricane. I’m hoping it counts as “in like a lion,” and that March’s weather will be lamb-like in its intensity. Fingers crossed.

So, indeed, March has arrived. And with it, a new contest. We’re having so much fun giving away our products that we’re going to give away some more. In addition to our Jam Tour, where we’re traveling the U.S. to give away coupons and samples of Wild Maine Blueberry Jam, we now have a monthly contest going on in our Stonewall Kitchen Company Stores and online. This month’s giveaway is a beautiful collection from our Fine Home Keeping line – hand soap, hand lotion, dish soap, and a soy candle in our new Herbes de Provence scent. Limit one entry per person per month. Click here for full contest rules.

Back here on the Stonewall Kitchen blog, the winner of last week’s cookbook giveaway is Commenter #2, Amber.* Amber’s take on a picture’s ability to aid in food preparation is insightful and fun:

“Photos help me decide which recipe to make. And for complicated recipes, they
are an absolute must! Photos are a recipe's way of saying ‘Cook me!’”

Congratulations, Amber! We hope you’ll enjoy your new copy of “Stonewall Kitchen Appetizers.” The next time you’re having a party, maybe we'll drop in because we know you’ll be serving up some delicious snacks!

* was used to choose the winning entry.