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Hot Sauce, Anyone?

I was intrigued when I first saw The Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila. It is a cookbook full of recipes for foods “you can stop buying and start making”. Do you like Twinkies? You can make them at home! Pop Tarts, Peanut Butter Cups, and Oreos are just some of the treats Chernila has adapted so we can make them ourselves.

As you can tell, the sweets and junk food caught my attention right away, but there is a wide variety of recipes from ricotta and cream cheese to hamburg buns, fish sticks, graham crackers, fruit roll-ups and homemade pasta from the pasta dough to the pasta sauce.

Chernila teaches cheese making and sells vegetables and these recipes are born from sharing recipes with those that stop by her stall at the farmer’s market. She is budget conscious and due in part to being a mother to two girls, wants to change the way we think about food and draw us away from packaged foods. She created the blog Eating From the Ground Up and lives in western Massachusetts with her family. The Homemade Pantry is her first cookbook, but she has since authored two more: The Homemade Kitchen and Eating From the Ground Up.

Each section has an introduction and each recipe has a story behind it with tips and encouragement when recipes might not go the way you want it to. After her introduction, in which she is transparent about her messy kitchen and the stress that can accompany meal time, she discusses different kitchen equipment and food storage techniques. And though I could always do with more pictures, there are numerous pictures throughout the book and each of them is beautiful.

My sweet tooth was begging me to try the recipes that would make it happy, but I was intrigued by the condiment section, especially the hot sauce recipe. I have a number of family members that love hot sauce. Hot sauce on eggs, hot sauce on burgers, hot sauce in soups. Hot sauce. Hot sauce. Hot sauce. I decided I would make the hot sauce, the ketchup, and the mustard.

I made the ketchup first. The recipe was easy to follow with step-by-step directions. She offers three ways to store the finished ketchup and notes how long the ketchup will last in each storage option. The most challenging step to the ketchup was getting it smooth enough with my ancient and needs-to-be-replaced blender. To be honest, her recipe calls for 1 tsp of cinnamon. I found it too much. At first taste, I didn’t notice it but it lingered in the aftertaste. My family did like it, and I will try it again, but will decrease the cinnamon or leave it out all together.

My husband loves brats (no, not our kids when they’re overtired, but a type of sausage), so mustard is very important to him. Again, very easy step-by-step directions with few ingredients, and it really was mustard when it was done. She does note that the mustard will be spicy at first but will mellow over time, and she was right. I honestly don’t think you could tell the difference between her mustard and store bought mustard except for the difference in color. The homemade is not quite so yellow.

I was nervous about making the hot sauce, it came out great and my family loved it. At first taste you think it tastes fine, but there’s nothing amazing about it, but if you wait a few seconds, you feel the heat. The family has requested that I always have some on hand, and the recipe is so easy, it’s definitely do-able. It was such a hit at home that I brought some in to work one day. It was a winner. This recipe has few ingredients. It calls for a variety of hot chiles so you can play with the level of heat you want. Easy step-by-step instructions and storage ideas.

The Homemade Pantry was fun, and I might even need to buy my own copy as it will be a staple in my kitchen. Wanna give it a try? Stop by Topsham Public Library and check it out!

Topsham Public Library to Open Mondays!

There is excitement in the air! Topsham Public Library is changing our operating hours, and we are so pleased to announce that beginning July 1, we will be open on Mondays!

Because of the generosity of Mrs. Janice Solomon, Topsham Public Library is setting aside a portion of the Solomon bequest and using it to offer Monday hours. So, as of July 1, the hours of Topsham Public Library are Monday 9am-5pm, Tuesday 9am-8pm, Wednesday 9am-8pm, Thursday 9am-8pm, Friday 9am-5pm, and Saturday 9am-4pm.

The additional hours will be offered on a  three-year trial basis. After the three years, hours will be evaluated to ensure we are meeting the needs of the community.

We are so appreciative of the support we receive from our patrons and the community, and we are always looking for the best ways we can serve this community. We aim to be a community center for all ages, and we believe these new hours will further enable us to do that.

See you Monday, July 1 at 9am at Topsham Public Library!

Free Non-Residential Card for Bowdoin and Bowdoinham MSAD 75 Students

Do you know an elementary school through high school aged student who lives in Bowdoin or Bowdoinham and attends a MSAD 75 school? If so, let them know that a free Topsham Public Library card is available for them now and is valid through September 1, 2019.

This program is made available due to a grant from MSAD 75. You might be asking what about Harpswell students? The Town of Harpswell has an agreement with Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick and they may get a library card there.

These cards are just like a regular Topsham Public Library card and offer the same services as the regular card, but they are only valid for the summer months and will expire September 1. These cards are for student use only. That does not mean that the card is only for educational purposes – it means that the student uses it for whatever they want and the offer is not for family members not in school.

If you have any questions, please call Topsham Public Library at (207)725-1727 for more information.

Hope to see you soon!

Help Us Celebrate 15 Years!

Hopefully, by now you are aware that Topsham Public Library is celebrating our 15th Anniversary at our Foreside Road location on Saturday, June 8 with events scheduled all day long. (For a schedule of events click here.) If you are unable to join us that day and you are looking for another way to celebrate our 15th Anniversary, we have the answer! Visit Topsham Public Library between June 1-15 and pick a selection from our Gift-a-Book display. For $15 you can select from one of the titles on display, or choose a genre card from our gift “tree” and let our librarians decide. This is an excellent way to boost our purchasing abilities and bring more selection to our shelves!

Each month, our librarians do their best to stretch our buying budget to purchase something for everyone, but they always have to slim down their lists. Last time we did this during our 10th Anniversary, our patrons added 60+ books to the collection! Join us in reaching our goal of 100 books or DVDs during our 15 year milestone.

 

Gelato Isn’t Supposed to Be Chewy

There is a Gelato Fiasco cookbook!! When I saw it, I knew I had to try it! But the folks at Gelato Fiasco can rest assured, I won’t be posing a threat to their success! Along the way, my gelato turned chewy, and believe me chewy gelato is yucky, but it was worth trying and I will try it again in the future.

Gelato Fiasco: Recipes and Stories from America’s Best Gelato Makers by Joshua Davis, Bruno Tropeano, and Cynthia Finnemore Simonds was released in September, 2018 by Down East Books, and the book is beautiful from the front cover to the final page.

You need to read the cookbook before beginning the gelato making process. The story of Gelato Fiasco’s beginning is fun and interesting, but more importantly, they discuss the process of gelato making and why certain ingredients matter. Gelato does take time to make due to the freezing process and the steps required in making the base and any flavors you want to add. I had to read through the recipes and directions a few times and I made sure I had all ingredients on hand. Running to the grocery store because I forgot something would have been catastrophic! The key to a successful gelato is the freezing process, and believe me, it’s important.

Every gelato begins with a base, and then you add ingredients depending on the flavor you desire. I made the Classic White Gelato Base with the Wild Maine Blueberry variegate (that’s the fancy term for fruit additions) to add to it. The key to a successful gelato is the freezing process, and believe me, it’s important.

Once I decided what flavor I wanted, I chose my base and gathered the ingredients. The base I made called for guar gum which I found at Morning Glory Natural Foods in Brunswick. You can substitute eggs for the guar gum if you prefer not to use it, but I wanted to try it. The rest of the ingredients are pretty basic and easy to find. The key to a successful gelato is the freezing process, and believe me, it’s important

As I mentioned, the freezing process is vital to a good gelato. They suggest using an ice cream maker, but they do offer an option if you do not have one. There are also some other tools they prefer to use, but I used what I had. For instance they suggested a certain type of thermometer for the cooking step when making the base, but I used my candy thermometer and that seemed to work fine.

I followed the recipes exactly as they directed, so why did my gelato turn out chewy? Have I  mentioned that the key to a successful gelato is the freezing process? Everything seemed like it was progressing along well – it looked like gelato, it smelled like gelato, it tasted like gelato until I took it out of my ice cream maker. Unbeknownst to me, at some point my ice cream maker stopped churning on the inside, although everything looked fine from the outside, so the gelato on the bottom was frozen, but the gelato on top wasn’t quite so frozen. But I pressed on. I thought really, how much of a difference will it make? The key to a successful gelato is the freezing process, and believe me, it’s important. I folded in the blueberry variegate and put it in the freezer.

Gelato should not be chewy. Chewy gelato is yucky. Even though it looked like gelato, and it looked beautiful, it had a taste related to gelato but that was not gelato. Even if you do not want to try and make gelato, I suggest you read the cookbook anyway. The photos  are pieces of art all by themselves, and there are recipes for foods that are added to gelato that sound yummy even if you don’t make the gelato like the brownies and the peanut brittle.

Though my gelato was a failure, I enjoyed the process and next time I visit Gelato Fiasco whatever flavor I get will taste just a little bit sweeter.

Did Someone Say Summer Reading?!

You wouldn’t know it by the weather we’ve been experiencing, but summer is on its way and with summer comes Topsham Public Library’s summer reading programs.

The staff has been busy finalizing details and confirming programs and on June 1 we are launching A Universe of Stories.

If you are a regular patron, you know what’s coming. If you are new to our library, you  want to make sure you pick up your summer reading packet on or after June 1. There are challenges to complete (don’t worry – nothing complex – it’s summertime so relax and enjoy it) and prizes to be earned through reading and participating in our programs like free movies, crafting opportunities, and other programming all summer long. The summer reading program is for all ages and free for everyone.

Do we dare hope that by June 1 the skies will be sunny and the temps higher? We can hope, but no matter what, Topsham Public Library has something for you!

It’s Our Anniversary!

Can you believe it?! Next month Topsham Public Library is celebrating 15 years at our Foreside Road location! We are so thankful for the support from our community. It would not be possible without you!

Of course we are throwing a party! Saturday, June 8 is filled with activities and the schedule of events is as follows:

10am-12noon – Photo Booth – take home a free pic

10am-11:30am – Family Tye Dye – weather permitting, bring your own shirts, while supplies last

10am-11am – Team Scavenger Hunt – for all ages

11am – Live Music

11:30am – Library Mad Libs

12noon – Picnic – bring you own lunch and blanket, weather permitting

12:30pm – Cookie Decorating

12:30pm – Happy 15th Birthday – cake for everyone

1pm-3:30pm – Movie – Treasure Island (1990)

You do not want to miss this celebration! Bring your family and friends and have food and fun with your community!

Joy of the Lens

If you have not been in to see the Joy of the Lens exhibit, you need to do so.

Joy of the Lens is an annual photography show at Topsham Public Library that is sponsored by Friends of the Topsham Public Library.

Though every year is amazing, there is something about this year’s show that is inspiring.

On Saturday, May 4 at 11 am, Joy of the Lens Photographers Talk will take place. The winners of this year’s People’s Choice Award and the Friends’ Photo Lottery will be announced. The winning photographers in all categories will discuss their work. This event is free and open to the public.

Whether you can make it to the photographers talk or not, come alone or bring a friend and check out the Joy of the Lens exhibit. Hurry because after the talk on Saturday the show will be taken down. Our hours are Tuesday-Thursday 9am-8pm, Friday 9am-5pm and Saturday 9am-4pm.

 

Ruth Reichl Is Not My Niece’s Friend

My niece, Kelsee, loves to cook. She’s adventurous in the kitchen and up for anything. Though we live in different states now, there was a time when we lived together, so we have a small group of common friends and aquaintances. Anyway, long story short, she was telling me about a recipe for chocolate cake that she got from Ruth Reichl that I just had to try. After our conversation, I kept running Ruth’s name through my mind trying to remember which friend of Kelsee’s she was. Well, after a week or two, I wanted to make the cake, so I asked Kelsee for the recipe and she told me I could just google it. Ruth Reichl is not my niece’s friend.

Ruth Reichl is a famous food expert. A professional. Someone who really knows food.  Former restaurant owner, food critic, Gourmet magazine editor, James Beard Award winner multiple times, author of memoir, fiction, and cookbooks, Reichl has done it all when it comes to the world of food.

That chocolate cake was good. It wasn’t just good, it was the best chocolate cake I’ve ever tasted (well, except for the German Sweet Chocolate Cake that I make just so I can eat the frosting). This cake is moist and not too sweet and the frosting is smooth, creamy, chocolaty, velvety. The recipe is easy and the ingredients are basic and easy to find, and the result is delightful. Oh, and it’s BIG. It’s a layer cake, but the layers are made in 9×13 pans. Make sure you have a crowd to help you eat it, because if you don’t, you will eat it all by yourself.

Of course, once I was introduced to Reichl I had to find out more. I listened to her work of fiction, Delicious!, which is a fun read that takes us behind the foodie scene in New York with a World War II side plot that delves into food rationing and what people used for substitutions in their cooking. Her works of memoir are now on my To Read list. I also checked out a Gourmet Today cookbook that she edited.

The drawback to Gourmet Today is that there are absolutely NO PICTURES! It is a huge tome with over 1000 recipes, so it is quite dense, but I think pictures are so important in cookbooks, and I almost put the cookbook back on the shelf, but I persevered.

This cookbook is so much more than a collection of recipes from a variety of cooks and chefs. Reichl set out to include as many recipes as possible that could be made in 30 minutes or less. She also had the future of cooking in mind as far as using ingredients that are sustainable and environmentally friendly sourced. Some ingredients are unique and might be hard to find but she does include a source guide to help you find them. Each section begins with an introduction by Reichl and these are entertaining to read even if you don’t like cooking. In the back, she provides menus for eat in nights or for those nights you want to cook for friends. And of course tips and techniques are found throughout the book that help make the time you spend in your kitchen successful and enjoyable.

So, what did I make from Gourmet Today?

I made the Spiced Chicken (pg 397), Potato and Parmesan Gratin (pg 25), the Balsamic-Glazed Beets (pg 572), and Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies (pg 681). It was delicious! Everything! I will be making these recipes again I assure you! (In the picture you’ll notice carrots and broccoli stir-fried in a little peanut oil with a touch of soy sauce and freshly grated ginger that we make often. Also, forgive the paper plate – I forgot to put the dishwasher through before dinner…)

They were so easy to make. The most laborious were the potatoes but that was due to the peeling and slicing. The spice rub for the chicken I made the night before as well as the sauce for the beets. The beets I cooked the day before and heated them as directed in the recipe to serve. I will say, Reichl states she tried to find 30 minute recipes and they are there, but unless you are well-practiced in the kitchen I would allow a little more time.

All the ingredients were available at my local grocery store. The potatoes do call for parmigiano-reggiano cheese, but, I learned, that is cheese that’s made in a specific area of Italy. Parmesan cheese is the generic term for parmigiano-reggiano that is not made in the traditional geographic area of Italy, so I went with the fresh parmesan cheese I could find at the grocery store.

I did make a few minor adjustments. The chicken recipe called for skin on and bone in chicken breast, leg, or thigh. I used boneless, skinless chicken breast. (We received an air fryer as a gift and we cooked the chicken in the air fryer. Juicy on the inside, crispy on the outside!) To the potatoes I added some asiago and romano cheese as well as the parmesan. The beets I made as stated and didn’t change anything, but she suggests pure maple syrup or honey in the recipe and I used the maple syrup.

As I said, everything was delicious and I will be making these recipes again. We were all relieved with how the chicken turned out. The rub was a savory rub, but it had cinnamon in it and so we weren’t sure what that would taste like. The cinnamon was not overpowering and really added layers to the flavor. My sister tasted the maple syrup on the beets whereas I tasted more of the balsamic vinegar. The only thing I would do differently next time is pair these recipes with more subtle flavored foods. The beets and the chicken were so bold in flavor sometimes I thought they were fighting each other. The potatoes were a nice balance. The cookies finished off the meal, though I wasn’t sure they would last until then.

It is a large cookbook, and it doesn’t have any pictures, but there are recipes for everyone, and definitely worth a look.

P.S. Reichl just released another memoir Save Me the Plums which covers her time at Gourmet magazine. From the reports I’ve heard from patrons, it’s a great read.

Maine State Music Theater and Treasure Island

Do you know that the classic tale Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson is also a musical? Maine State Music Theater’s summer lineup includes Treasure Island: A Musical Adventure which is being performed June 26 through July 13!

MSMT has partnered with six local libraries, Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick, Topsham Public Library, Wiscasset Public Library, Patten Free Library in Bath, Cundy’s Harbor Library, and Orr’s Island Library, to re-introduce people to Stevenson’s classic swash-buckling tale. Each library has a display and will be hosting Treasure Island inspired events through July 13 and you can find a schedule of those events here.

Next time you’re in, check out the display at Topsham Public Library where you can find information on the performances at MSMT, and where you can find Treasure Island in various forms: book, graphic novel, movie, and audiobook. There is also an opportunity for you to enter a chance to win two tickets to one of MSMT’s Treasure Island A Musical Adventure performances.