January 28, 2015

Maine

Statehood: March 15th, 1820 (23/50)

There's a moment in the movie Love Actually, where the Prime Minister lists off all the exceptional things his nation has to offer. And every time I hear it, I smile from ear to ear and feel warm all over because... I know the passion with which he speaks: it's the exact same way I feel about my home of Maine.

Yes, we may be a small state. But we're a great one, too. A state of innovators/entrepreneurs like Leon Leonwood Bean; a state of history making military/political figures like Joshua Chamberlain (who's possibly the catalyst for the favorable change during the Civil War because of his efforts at Little Round Top); a well-read, well-spoken state with the likes of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on our side; and, a cultured state that consistently gets worldwide recognition for our exceptional food and breath taking natural beauty.

Some stereotypes are true: I do own at least one article of red plaid clothing, I've seen more moose in my lifetime than celebrities, and I say the phrase "that's wicked cool" at least once a day, for example. But, I can tell you this - after traveling many, many places, I came back to settle here because the people really are the kindest, most generous, hard-working, and accepting folks you'll ever meet.

Time to make way for mouthwatering morsels from our magnificent state, right Mainers?!

(I have tried for twenty-two states - and will try for another twenty-seven states - to be neutral and factual... but, c'mon, you knew I was gonna be irrationally biased when we got to my home. You would be, too! Unless you're not in love with where you live. And if you're not in love with where you live... why are you living there? Life is short. Move to a place that inspires you. Like Maine.)


State Berry: Wild Blueberry

Maine has a lot of blueberries. Did I say a lot? Because I meant it: it's believed that we produce 99% of the countries blueberries. As such, it's our official state berry. Blueberries, as most people know, are an excellent antioxidant, increase dopamine, and have both restorative and healing qualities to them. Basically... you should be eating them every.single.day.

Savory, Sweet Grilled Cheese
Makes: 2 sandwiches

Ingredients:
4 slices of multigrain bread
4 Tablespoons of blueberry jam (like from Stonewall Kitchens)
2 Tablespoons of honey
4 Tablespoons of goat cheese
1/2 lb of Havarti
8 slices of Tofurky Hickory Smoked Deli Slices (or meat of your choice)

Method:
Build your sandwich: on one slice of multigrain bread spread 2 tablespoons of blueberry jam. On another slice of multigrain spread 1 tablespoon of honey, then 2 tablespoons of goat cheese. Layer 4 slices of the Tofurky Hickory Smoked Deli Slices on top of that, and finish with half of the Havarti. Place the other piece of bread jam side down to finish the sandwich. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Grill on preferred surface - we use our George Foreman, because it also acts a bit like a panini press - for upwards to 7 or 10 minutes (depending on your preference for crunchy of bread/melt of cheese). Serve immediately!


State Beverage: Moxie

Spirit? Courage? I'm a girl with moxie who drinks Moxie. And if you want to immerse yourself in our culture you'll drink Moxie... and not complain about it's astringent taste (back in the day, it was believed that Moxie could cure paralysis, nervousness, insomnia, etc.). A bill designated the drink our official state beverage in 2005. We even have an annual festival in July for the stuff! Unfortunately, for you, I think it's super regional. So you might have to order some online to celebrate with!

Just Another Moxie Cocktail
Makes: 1 drink

Ingredients:
2-oz of Jack Daniels
8-oz of Diet Moxie
1 wedge of orange

Method:
Squirt the wedge of orange into a glass full of ice. Drop it in, then pour in the Jack Daniels and the Diet Moxie. Swirl around. Drink it up.


State Pie: Blueberry

Thanks to the Maine State Legislature in 2011, the blueberry pie became our official state pie. As it should be, since we produce so much of the berry and - really? - is there anything more heavenly then a warm piece of blueberry pie topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream? I think not.

A Mostly Traditional Blueberry Pie
Makes: 1 pie

Ingredients:
2 pie crusts (I love these)
5 cups of blueberries
1/4 cup of flour
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
2 teaspoons of lime zest
tin foil
Optional: vanilla ice cream

Method:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Roll out one pie crust and gently press into a pie plate.

In a large bowl combine the blueberries, flour, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and lime zest. With a wooden spoon (or even your hands), mix and slightly smash mixture together - doing so will release the juices from some of the berries, and help everything to bind together better. When your mixture is no longer dry looking and smells like oatmeal, pour into the pie crust. Top with second pie crust and gently pinch together to seal the edges of the pie crusts. Cover edge of crust with tinfoil so it doesn't burn (trust me on this one).

Bake for 55 to 60 minutes.

Let sit at least 20 minutes before serving. When you do serve a slice, though, top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Nothing in this world tastes quite like warm blueberry pie and cold vanilla ice cream, trust me!


State Treat: Whoopie Pie

Whoopie pies are a beloved baked good here, and have been since the beginning of the 20th century. Never had one? It's just two rounds of chocolate cake that sandwich frosting, basically. The Maine State Legislature designated it our official state treat in 2011.

Pumpkin Whoopie's Make Ya Say Heyyyyyyyyyo
Makes: about 15 mini whoopie pies

Ingredients for cakes:
1 cup white sugar
4-oz apple sauce
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt

Method:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, place all of the ingredients (the white sugar, the apple sauce, the vegetable oil, the vanilla, the canned pumpkin, the flour, the baking powder, the baking soda, the pumpkin pie spice, and the salt). Mix until just combined.

Drop by the rounded tablespoonful onto a greased cookie sheet.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.

Let cool completely before using.

Ingredients for filling:
1 1/2 cups butterscotch chips
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 Tablespoons (alternative) milk
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Method:
In a saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the butterscotch chips, vanilla, and milk. Mix frequently until the chips have melted entirely and a creamy tan substance has formed. Remove from heat. With an electric mixer, add the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until the filling has thickened. Stick in refrigerator for 20 minutes to thicken up a bit. Finally, liberally spread filling on one side of a pumpkin cake before topping with another cake. Best stored in the fridge!

Note: When I originally made these, I used 2 Tablespoons of milk and 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar. It was very dense, the way I prefer my whoopie pie filling. I wish I had stayed with this version rather than adding the additional milk and sugar. Your call, essentially, how you want to make it though!


Sources:
Maine.gov: Facts About Maine
Stanton, Sarah. "RE: Reference question". Message to the author. 10 Oct. 2013. E-mail.