Every year, as July turns into August, we make a pilgrimage up north to Maine, specifically Mt. Desert Island and the enchanting wilds of Acadia National Park. Seven days there does wonders to revitalize your mind and spirit. We unplug (thus, no Shelterrific posts for a week), disconnect and take lots of deep breathes to savor the freshest air imaginable. One of the most charming things about MDI is that there are no franchises or chains of any kind (there may be one Rite Aid, but that’s it). You don’t realize the effect constant strip mall signage and box stores collections have on your senses until you step away from them. It’s so delightful to having nothing but locally owned and operated businesses to choose from. Sure, you may have to pay a little more for that gallon of milk, or drive a little farther to get a pint of blueberries, but in the end, you’ll be happier because of it.
At the center of this extremely local-centric region is Acadia, which is truly one of this country’s treasures. (In fact, a USA Today poll recently declared it the most popular national park, which means the house rental demand will be even fiercer next summer!) When you’re in MDI, you weave in and out of the park land all day long. It is the only national park that has private land and small towns scattered throughout, which is a nod to history: It was donated by the Rockfellers about a hundred years ago, and some families still have estates within its boundaries. This year we rented a piece a property overlooking Sommes Sound. There were no car sounds, no lights from neighboring residences, nothing but quiet. Our days were spent exploring the park by foot, boat, or horse-drawn carriage. At night we cooked lobster in a big pot and then made s’mores by the fire pit for dessert.
Here are a few recipes and local wares that have become a part of our lives every summer. Even if you’re not fortunate enough to journey to MDI this year, you can always eat some cobbler and dream.
Have you noticed that home made ice-cream sandwiches seem to be very trendy this summer? I’ve seen them on the pages of several food and fashion magazines, a fad that is very hard to resist! I spotted this recipe for a cardamon-oatmeal ice cream sandwich in the August Food & Wine and decided to give a try. I love anything with cardamon (flashback: the perfect pumpkin muffins). These cookies came out lovely. They were a tad on the crumbly side which made actually eating them by hand with ice cream in the middle pretty messy. I used coffee ice cream which went really nicely with the cookie’s flavor. My recommendation: Skip the sandwich and just put the whole yumminess in a bowl!
Caradmon-Oatmeal Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches (adapted from Food & Wine)
What You Need:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 pint ice cream, for filling — I suggest coffee flavor!
How To Make:
1. Heat 350° and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Whisk the flour, cardamom, salt and baking soda in a bowl.
2. With an electric mixer in a second bowl, beat the butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until fluffy, one to two minutes. At medium speed, beat in the egg. Beat in the buttermilk and vanilla until just smooth, then beat in the dry ingredients. Turn off mixer and fold in the oats stirring by hand.
3. Using an ice cream scoop or a tablespoon measurement, scoop 10 mounds of dough onto each baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes, until the cookies are puffy and golden brown.
4. Let cool completely on racks afterwards.
5. If making sandwiches, scoop a nice heap of ice cream onto the underside of a cookie. Top with another cookie. Wrap in plastic and freeze until the ice cream is just firm, about 30 minutes.
One of the rituals that marks the passing of winter to spring-summer is a change in our breakfast staples. Usually around April, I stop making steel-cut oatmeal each morning on the stove and switch instead to Greek yogurt with homemade granola and fruit. Boredom’s been setting in already and I’ve been looking for a new routine. Then I discovered that a lot of people were tweeting about “overnight oats” or “refridgerator oatmeal.” There’s even a Buzzfeed list about it! Oatmeal you make in your refridgerator? Sign me up! Of all the recipes I saw, the one that seemed the most straightforward was from Lauren Conrad, who is quickly becoming Martha Stewart for a new generation. (Is there anything she doesn’t do?) Her overnight oats is simply a mix of yogurt, oatmeal and a milk of some kind. The hardest part is remembering to make them in advance so they’re waiting for you in the morning!
Here’s the basic how-to for Overnight Oats:
What You Need:
8 oz mason jars
1/3 cup almond milk (or milk of your choice)
1/3 cup organic rolled oats
1/3 cup vanilla (or plain) Greek yogurt (I preferred the vanilla — I used Trader Joe’s Australian Vanilla, no-fat)
1 pinch of cinnamon (optional)
1. Gather enough jars for about three or four days worth of breakfasts.
2. Fill the jars one third of the way with oats.
3. Fill the jars another third with yogurt.
4. Top off with milk and stir it all together.
5. Place the lid on the jar and put them in the fridge for at least 4 hours.
6. Wake up the next morning and enjoy. Top off with fresh fruit if you like!
Isn’t it a wonderful world when a young Polish designer who lives outside of Warsaw can suddenly find herself a design blog darling? I heard about Zuzia Kozerska and her beautiful, engraved baking pins via This Is Colossal and was even more enchanted after clicking through to Zuzia’s Esty page. A baker and a designer, she wanted to make pastries that were fun and delicious without spending an entire weekend slaving over them. Using a laser engraver (take that Star Wars fans!) Zuzia discovered a way to engrave wooden rolling pins with whimsical patterns, like cats, robots, dinosaurs and even charming Polish phrases (like “sto lat” — a birthday greeting which means 100 years). “It all started with my niece birthday, she is absolutely nuts about cats!” says Zuzia on Etsy. “I knew without any hesitations what would be the first pattern I would make.” Made from locally harvested beech wood, the pins cost about $42 plus $13 shipping from Poland. They arrive in a carefully wrapped box with local postage stamps to show off their country origin. Without a doubt, this is going on my holiday gift list — I do have some Polish bakers in my family!
The moment I laid my eyes on the July issue of Food & Wine I couldn’t stop thinking about the salad on its cover. I didn’t even know exactly what it was, but I could see some of favorite ingredients — watermelon, feta, black olives — and knew I needed to make it. The occasion was our neighborhood block party, which is usually overflowing with hotdogs, hamburgers, macaroni and cheese and all kinds of yummy but not very light foods. A friend of mine who works at the magazine forwarded me the recipe. I immediately saw that their version called for a few ingredients I would NOT find at our local supermarket, (Gochugaru? Shishito peppers?), so I set about to adapt it slightly. The secret to this salad is a surprising mix of sweet and peppery. I’m happy to say my resulting bowl was a big hit and the leftovers (when mixed with more fresh greens) were just as good the next day. Here’s my take on a watermelon salad with feta and charred peppers.
Watermelon Salad with Feta and Charred Peppers
What You Need:
2 cups of seedless watermelon, cubed into 1-inch pieces
2 cucumbers, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1/4 cup very thinly sliced red onion
1 1/2 tbls sherry vinegar
1/2 tsp of crushed red pepper
1/4 cup + 2 tbls extra-virgin olive oil
8 hot chili peppers
1/2 cup of pitted kalamata olives, halved
4 ounces feta, crumbled
1 cup lightly packed watercress leaves, stems removed
2 tbls minced cilantro
How To Make:
1. In a large glass or ceramic baking dish, gently toss the watermelon, cucumbers, red onion, vinegar, crushed red paper and 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Spread in an even layer and season with salt and pepper.
2. In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil until hot. Add the whole chili peppers and cook over high heat, tossing, until charred in spots and crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Cool slightly, then add to salad bowl.
3. Before serving, add olives, feta, watercress, and cilantro. Toss and serve.