Summer Desserts

Summer highlights = the abundance of local, fresh fruit. Despite the heat, I’ve enjoyed spending time in my kitchen the last few weeks trying a few new recipes:

Peach Pie with Crème fraîche

Blueberry Crumble Bars

Buttery Blueberry Cake

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Nourishing Belly Balm

A few months ago I ordered what I thought was cocoa butter lotion through the Portland Food Co-op. What I actually ordered, however, was solid cocoa butter. Smells delicous and nourishing for your skin, but the only way you can use it if you heat it up so it melts a bit.

Since I don’t have a microwave and didn’t want to make a hot water bath for cocoa butter every day, I decided to combine the butter with a few other ingredients to make a convenient, nourishing balm for my growing belly (so I guess this is my annoucement – I’m pregnant!).

My go-to book for making all types of lotions, creams, salves and other body care products is Earthly Bodies, Heavenly Hair by Dina Falconi. It has hundreds of recipes for men, women and children and they are all easy to understand. One of my favorites from this book is the blue chamomile face cream – I stand by this cream as the best face moisturizer I have ever used.

So I flipped through and found a recipe for belly balm. I simply swapped in the cocoa butter for the shea butter the recipe called for and ended up with 8 oz of a soft balm that is easy to apply, smells delicous and is nourishing for my skin.

Supplies:

  • 2 oz jojoba oil (you could also try swee almond or grapeseed oil)
  • 2 oz coconut oil
  • 2 oz cocoa butter
  • 1.5 -2 oz olive oil
  • 1 oz beeswax

Directions:

Pour the liquid oils into a heat-proof Pyrex cup, using the oz measurements to guide you. Add the cocoa butter and coconut oil. Grate the beeswax in until the liquid rises 1 oz. When you are done, your combination of oils and solids should be at the 9 oz mark on the Pyrex (I ended up being a little closer to 10 oz, but the recipe turned out fine).

Place the Pyrex in a hot water bath and stir the mixture with a wooden chop stick (no metal) until the solids have completely melted.

Pour the hot liquid into clean, glass jars (make sure they are wide mouth so you will be able to easily scoop out the balm once it hardens a bit). Once the liquid is cooled, you can put the caps on the jars.

This batch should last me for several months. This is a great nourishing balm for all skin types and it feels GREAT on your skin! It’s not greasy and your skin absorbs it right away.

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Easy Kale Chips

It has been an embarrassingly long time since I have posted. There’s been lots of exciting changes and events happening over at mainebelle, and I’ve been busy with work, projects and other adventures. I’ve missed writing here, though, so I plan to be posting with more frequency – thanks for your continued support!

Lately I’ve been trying to experiment with greens – when I eat kale, swiss chard or collards, I usually just steam them, add a dash of salt and pepper and eat them as a side dish. While this is great, it also tends to get a little boring. I had always wanted to try kale chips, so at the recommendation of Isabel over at Women’s Wellness in Portland, I decided to give it a go.

Kale chips are surprisingly easy to make and are delicious – they melt right in your mouth and it suddenly becomes very easy to easy to eat en entire bunch of kale in one sitting. One item to note – after you take these out of the oven, make sure they are completely dry and crispy. I put the top on the tupperware while they were still warm, which ended up making them soggy (still edible, but missing the crisp). Have you tried making chips with other vegetables?

Easy Kale Chips

  • 1 bunch of organic kale (I used curly kale)
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic granules
  • Brewer’s yeast

Pre-heat your oven to 275 F. Thoroughly wash the kale and cut into small, bite size pieces. Toss in a bowl with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic granules and brewer’s yeast. I experimented with this combination and really like the flavor – the chips would also be great with just a bit of salt.

Spread the kale on a baking dish in a single layer and bake for about 20 minutes (turn over the kale after about 10 minutes). Make sure to keep them in until they are crispy and slightly browned, but make sure not to burn them.

Let cool and enjoy a delicious snack!

Spread the kale in a single layer on a baking pan

Just out of the oven

Bowl of crispy kale chips

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Paleo Dinner: Maine Shrimp Curry

The Maine shrimp season has come and gone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t buy it frozen! I ordered a pound of Maine shrimp from Port Clyde Fresh Catch  (PCFC) through the Portland Food Co-op. PCFC is a collaboration of Port Clyde, Maine fishermen, who came together to preserve the local fishing economy and heritage of their community. They use sustainable fishing methods and have a Community Supported Fishery (CSF) available.

As you know, Maine shrimp is quite small, so you don’t really want to eat them like traditional shrimp. I’m also *technically still on a paleo diet, so I started hunting around for recipes. I found a great recipe, forgot where I found it, spent an hour googling around and relocated it on the Bangor Daily News website (note the Port Clyde Fresh Catch shrimp in the photo!) (*I may have caved and eaten a huge ice cream cone yesterday). 

I pretty much followed this recipe, but didn’t have a few of the ingredients and only had a pound of shrimp, so you can see my substitutions below. This made enough for dinner for two of us, plus lunch the next day – yum!

Paleo Dinner: Maine Shrimp Curry

  • 1 pounds Maine shrimp (fresh or frozen)
  • 1.5 cups green peas 
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1 cup chopped baby bella mushrooms
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • Olive oil 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 tablespoon fresh-grated ginger 
  • 1.5 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 tablespoons lime juice
  • Almost 1 full can coconut milk      

Heat up olive oil in deep cast iron pan until hot. Add the garlic, ginger, curry and lime and stir until you have a nice paste. Add peas, carrots and onions and saute for 7-10 minutes. Reduce heat and add coconut milk. Simmer for 10 minutes, occassionally stirring. 

When carrots are tender, add shrimp and cook for about 2-3 minutes (be careful not to overcook them). I had the dish as is, but you could serve over rice, couscous or quinoa. The original recipe called for lime wedges and basil for garnish – I did not have, but would be great!

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Coconut Nuggets

It was my father-in-law’s birthday a few weeks ago and coconut is his favorite, so I tried my hand at these double coconut muffins from smitten kitchen. I followed the recipe exactly, so head over there for all the details.

Tip: though super tasty and a bit of coconut heaven, make sure to eat these in one to two days, as i found they dried out pretty quickly. I also found that these were more like little coconut nuggets instead of muffins – almost like those energy blocks you can buy in bulk from health food stores.

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Guest Post – Four Looks with Thrifted and Vintage Clothes

Twitter has connected me to many great and interesting people from all over. Thanks to this social media network, on a cold Saturday morning my friend @cristymaldonado and I headed up north to Portland, ME to meet @joppathoughts who I already knew (and met through Twitter) and @mainebelle who I met for the first time.

The four of us headed to the Portland Museum of Art where we argued over Richard Nonas’ Stopped Bar Series, Two Down and talked about Shaker furniture, art, blogging, fashion, thrifting and so much more.  We went on a beer tasting trip to Shipyard Brewing Company and even visited several vintage clothing stores (of course).

It is vintage clothing and thrifting that brings me to Maine Belle as a guest contributor.  I love the thrill of the hunt. Spending countless hours on weekend mornings perusing through old vinyl records, books, magazines and vintage clothes has to be one of the most relaxing activities one can do. Thrifting isn’t for everyone, but if you have the patience, the eye and the vision to turn someone else’s “trash” into your own treasure, you’re in for a treat (I’m probably preaching to the choir here, but we know how fun and rewarding thrifting can be).

I love finding one-of-a-kind statement vintage items that can make my outfit pop or set me apart from the crowd. I know it when I see it, and never question whether I’d be able to pull something off or whether it will even look good on me. It’s all in the attitude. I rock it, walk out the door and never look back.

In this first (of many guest contributions on my vintage and thrifted clothes–I hope), I share some style photos—courtesy of my friend Cynthia Staples who was kind enough to spend around 3 hours with me and my friend Michelle H., photographing some of our (mostly) thrifted and vintage clothes.

Look #1

I wore this ensemble for the first time in 2010 out to dinner followed by a rocking concert by Florence and the Machine. I rocked it as much as Florence rocked her concert–and it felt super great!  It is put together with mostly vintage pieces–Red plaid piped blazer (which I LOVE): I got at The Garment District in Cambridge, I think I paid less than $20 for it. It has attitude and never fails to get me a compliment or two. The blue ruffled tuxedo shirt has an interesting story (I’ll probably tell someday) and I bought it from the lovely Hilken Mancini over at 40 South St. in Jamaica Plain. The necklace is another awesome find. I found it by digging through a box full of jewelry at the SoWA Vintage and Antique Market in Boston. I paid a whooping $5 for it and as it turns out, even the stones are real! Jeans: Super Skinny Levi Jeans. Boots: Martin & Osa. Scarf: Thrifted at Goodwill.

Look #2

This is a nice outfit for a Saturday or Sunday afternoon walking around the city looking at architecture or browsing through books at an used bookstore. The navy blue peacoat (not thrifted): Ralph Lauren and is an essential item in any guy’s closet. The grey asymmetrical ribbed long sleeve shirt is Zara but thrifted from The Garment District. I borrowed the scarf (I own around 30 scarves) and the cameo bracelet from my friend Michelle H. and I made the beaded wood bracelets. The other accessories are the gloves –these are unlined leather and weren’t thrifted (a bit expensive) but they add some punch to any outfit. Last but not least, the sneakers: These are Air Jordan Retro 1 Hi Premier Gucci–inspired by the Gucci colorway. It was love at first sight when I saw these in Portland, Oregon–my heart started screaming–I listened and got them. Have never looked back since then. The sunglasses: I claimed those after being abandoned by their respective owner at my job’s lost and found box. They were meant to be with me, obviously :).  Note: the Air Jordan photo was taken by me using my cellphone.

Look #3

I love this outfit. The red plaid shirt was thrifted from Goodwill; the red v-neck sweater was thrifted from a shop in Valparaiso, Chile; extremely funky plaid pants are Levi’s 511 and were thrifted from The Garment District; the stone and wood necklace was a gift from a friend; the 1970’s brown leather jacket was thrifted from The Garment District (I think I paid around $20 for it and it is such an awesome piece I couldn’t be happier with it-the brand is Wilson Leather and the label is pretty cool). The boots are Carhartt and I thrifted them from Rescue on Newbury Street (turns out they are a sample model and were sold to the store by a sneaker designer–who helped design these–I love these to death also). You can’t see its details, but the watch is white and is made by Diesel; the bracelets are my own.

Look #4

I’m not afraid to rock loud colors and the lime-green and blue vintage jacket (brand is Speedo Australia, it has a cool label too), the yellow, maize blue, green Nike Cortez “Brazil” sneakers and the watch prove this point. I got the jacket last spring at Dame Vintage in Jamaica Plain; the scarf is thrifted from Goodwill, the face of the watch is Neves, but the strap (interchangeable depending on look, mood, or in my case–sneakers) I made myself using old ties which I cut up, measured to appropriate length and had my mom sew it and add gromets and a buckle. The sunglasses are Oakley and I bought those from Oakley while a poor college student in New Hampshire.

*****

Thanks to my friend Cynthia Staples for tagging along to take these photos. Thanks to Michelle Smith for letting me guest blog here. You can catch me on Twitter @EvolvingCritic or at The Evolving Critic (on indefinite blogging vacation at the moment, but do check the archive).

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Paleo Diet: Blueberry Spinach Smoothie

For the past two weeks, I’ve been on a “paleo” diet. I started seeing a nutritional therapist to check in on my diet – what foods are good for me, what should I avoid? I think I tend to eat pretty healthy, but I wanted to learn more about nutrition and why we eat what we eat.

To “reset” my body, I’ve been following a restricted diet – sometimes I can’t believe I made it through two weeks (as of today!). The paleo diet is a low sugar diet – that means no sweets, breads, pastas, grains or other carbohydrates that turn into sugar when digested. No alcohol, coffee or fruits (except berries and apples now and then, which have a low sugar content). So what have I been eating? Lots of vegetables and meat! I’m also eating lots of good fats and proteins – whole milk yogurt, avocados, almonds, eggs and cottage cheese.

To try and make breakfast more exciting, I’ve been experimenting  with smoothies. It took a few tries, but I assembled a great “paleo” smoothie that I will continue to make – super simple, delicious and fills you up so you don’t get hungry just a few hours later. Enjoy!

BlueberrySpinach Smoothie

  • Handful of fresh spinach
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries (if using fresh, add a few ice cubes)
  • 3/4 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
  • 1 scoop whey protein
  • 1 Tbsp flax seeds
  • Bit of water

Assemble all ingredients and blend – I use an immersion blendbicultural a regular blender or Vitamix should do the trick.

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