Wednesday, June 23, 2010

It's Not Skyscraper Building...

Greetings, Blog Readers and Foodie Friends!

Often times when we are preparing food at home we may be unaware that kitchen accidents are potentially a moment away. Think about it---mechanical devices, flames, heat, water running, knives. These can all lead to accidents in the kitchen. I write this in my endeavor to keep you safe and healthy. This list is not comprehensive, by no means, but here are some:

*Chef Coats

Chef Coats are worn by kitchen workers. They keep our underclothes clean and look nice and snazzy. Coats with knotted buttons are longer-lasting and actually safer. Why? If you were to be involved in hot grease or fire to yourself, these knotted buttons can actually "rip" open more easily. They are designed that way for that purpose!


My worst accident in my cooking career was at Phillips Exeter Academy. We had soaked corn cobs for roasting on an outdoor grill. Rather than pour the water on the ground at the end of the event, I figured I'd throw it directly into the hot coals. Bad juju bean! The water turned into steam, up the heavy container of pouring water, and took several layers off my (unprotected) knuckles.

I am not a big fan of crying in public, especially around a kitchen crew. The Food Service Director assessed the severity of my hand, surprised I did not want to be rushed to the Emergency Room, and said: "Neubert, you are one tough cookie. I don't think I could be that composed." Well, folks...I went home and treated the injury myself. And, yes...I cried later at my own foolishness and lack of experience.

*"Hey. Did you hear about so-and-so doing such-and-such..."

If your phone rings and you are cooking, turn off the burner and do not walk away. Fires start. Food overcooks. It always happens when you are not near it. You and your friend can talk later. Concentrate on the task at hand.

*Wrap it Up Right..and Carefully

Oddly, and I mean very oddly, the most common injury in commercial kitchens is cutting yourself on the box that dispenses aluminum foil or cling film. Look at the sawtoothed blades used to cut aluminum foil. They are sharp! You are one "space out" away from ripping your hand with them. Most companies have dispensers that have a slider cutter; look for these. These injuries really hurt and are totally avoidable.

Betsey Golon, a Master Gardener here in Naples, once said (and she related it to gardening): "Take the time to exist in the present." If you are cooking, cook. If you are pulling weeds, stop multi-tasking with a phone in one ear. I know it is challenging in the fast-paced world in which we live. There is, however, a certain peace that is there when you follow you passion without interruption.

I will keep you posted on more safety tips as I think of them. Have to end as guests will be checking in soon. Today's afternoon treats are New England Cranberry Hermit Bars. These are spicy and delicious and moist. Wish you were here to try one! Until then...thanks so much for reading--and, by all means, be careful in your cooking!!!

Keith A. Neubert

Innkeeper, Inn at Long Lake

Sunday, June 20, 2010

"Me? A Dad?! Wow!!!"

Happy Sunday to all!

It seems befitting that this weekend holds Father's Day as this week the life of my 2nd company came into reality. I feel like a "Dad," of sorts! Yes, it was a good excuse for pickles and ice cream these last few months, but in the end, my corporation, which bestows the beautiful Inn at Long Lake in my stewardship, finally has a brother--well, a brother company!. Much more on this later (and I do mean much more!). I am astonished, confident, and feeling very blessed about having this new project.

I never thought I'd even go to business school, or become an innkeeper or chef, or be this happy doing work I enjoy doing on a daily basis...but it's just the way my Life played itself out--and I am thankful. Sometimes we don't know what is over the mountain. All we need to do is enjoy the trail up the hill!

This weekend the 4th Annual Maine Blues Festival was held in the town of Naples, Maine. It was well attended and the guests staying at the inn were wonderful. Many of my repeat guests were back and it is nice to catch up with them and show them all the new touches the inn has now (since last year). The music was very good (I could hear it from the inn's front porch) and the crowd looked diverse and friendly (I overheard a few "Woos" and "Hoo Lordies!!" over the band's music--I suspect the latter is one of the necessary sounds when listening to the blues!! Hahaha.)

My breakfast this morning started out with my Cocoa-Banana Quick Bread with Irish Cream Glaze. Then, something I have wanted to try for a long time---a Blueberry Lasagna-style Casserole. Now...before you roll your eyes on this idea. It was good, people loved it, and I had to take a chance and try some new things. Here is how it was basically made:

Cut cinnamon bread. Soak in tradition egg custard (for French Toast), pan fry, fit done french toast into a pre-sprayed casserole. Mix ricotta cheese (yes, ricotta!) with vanilla extract and brown sugar; spread over French Toast layer. Top with some blueberries. REPEAT. I topped the mixture with a little brown sugar and flour (mixed) and slivered almonds (chopped hazelnuts would be great, too!). Let set 4 hours (I had to add more egg custard down the sides of the layers.) Cover with foil, bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, check for doneness of the custard. Hence the Blueberry-Ricotta French Toast with Almond Streusel came to be.

Have to end this posting. Thanks for reading. Have a great day (or whatever day you want it to be!).

Your Maine Innkeeper,

Keith A. Neubert

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Preserving for the First Time

"Putting Up Preserves, like Glamor, is easy if you try!" Pictured above: Beautiful Jane ascending the staircase after a day of preserving. Original photo by JB Sabin modified by this blogger.

Greetings, Blog Friends!

This past Sunday was an overcast day in Western Maine and it was a perfect day for my lady friend, Jane, to come over and teach me how to "put up preserves."

My Mom (Elaine) preserved in our home when I was younger and it has always interested me.

Preserving makes sense, after all. Economically, one can buy fruit in season (usually less expensive) and this saves money. Production-wise, it saves from running to the grocery store every week for your choice of jam/jellies--you can just grab it out of your jelly cabinet and enjoy to your heart's content. Thirdly, you made it with your own hands and it is free of preservatives; you taste fruit, fruit,...and nothing but the fruit (lol)--unless you are preserving pickles (then you'd have a problem!)

Jane is a Certified Public Accountant. She works surprisingly well in the kitchen, too! She possesses a strong clinical sense of that which is financial, and applies this to her timing in the kitchen (thinking ahead, not overlooking the guide of the recipe itself, etc.) Besides being smart, she's easy-going and very "easy on the eyes!" She was a patient teacher during our afternoon together. Here are some basic things I learned:

1. Not all recipes can be canned or preserved. One that can have a balance of acidity that influence the integrity of the finished product.

2. Follow the sanitization of both jars, lids, and screw-top collars explicitly. Time everything.

3. The "head space" (the space from the top of the jar and what you fill it with) varies. Follow to the letter of the recipe. It will affect the formation of the vacuum seal.

4. If after processing the jar lids do not "pop," the food is not preserved and use it only as you would a refrigerated (open) jar of food.

5. Follow this disclaimer: Familiarize yourself with all proper canning procedures. There may be more "rules."

6. Share your preserved goodies with those who help make your life special. I get to share mine with my inn guests! After all, they deserve the best!

Our Orange-Rhubarb Preserves and Victoria Sauce (rhubarb with raisins, brown sugar, spices--"perfect on pork", Jane said) were delicious. Two of the jars did not pop so I will use them soon. We got these recipes from the Ball Jar Preserving guide.

Preserving is an annual tradition in the home cooking of yesteryear. An afternoon of cooking, the company of a lovely lady, and getting to share it with my 2010 guests--well, life doesn't get any better! Arrange this tradition with a friend of your own. Make it an annual event! You'll be happy you did.

From Sunny, Glorious Long Lake in Western Maine,

Keith A. Neubert


Inn at Long Lake

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

My Birthstone is a Ruby, too...

Greetings to you from this June-warmed day along Long Lake in Maine.

It was a recent Friday in May and this innkeeper was getting out of town with his affable friend, JB (visiting from San Francisco).

We rented a cabin in equally-beautiful Central Maine (one with electricity--I like "rustic," but no electricity is "barbaric!" hehe). We woke after a wonderful night, beautifully cool and laden with the sound of only night crickets). May is a great month to just drive around and look at Yard Sales--and we did exactly that after a few lazy cups of microwaved coffee.

One sale held a surprise that enriched my Life. At the long line of haphazard tables were two tables full of bric-a-brac. Nothing piqued my interest.

"I sell fudge, too, you know," said a voice behind the tables (I was absorbed in the items and was startled to hear a voice).

"Pardon me?" I replied smiling. "What did you say, Ma'am?"

"I sell fudge," said this cute little lady sitting in a lawn chair. She pointed down. "Right here." In the shaded area around her car was a basket with small boxes of fudge. They were lovingly kept way from the increasing heat of the day. "I borrowed this recipe from my friend Bob when he was in culinary school. Do you kBoldnow Bob in Bangor?"

"," I smiled and laughed. "Name doesn't ring a bell. I don't get up to Bangor that much."

The lady revealed her name as "Ruby." She makes fudge and sells it every week at the local VFW (until, as she says, "I can't make it no more.") Ruby was a peach and a real "gem" of a Maine woman. I told her I was an Innkeeper in Sebago Lake. She nodded and behind her eyes I could see a fond memory of her past playing like an old movie, ending in a peaceful smile upon her beautiful face.

JB had come over to witness my conversation with Ruby. He offered his photography know-how and snapped a picture of us. Instead of "say cheese," JB laughed and improved a "Say FUDGE!" Ruby put her thumbs up in the air proudly, we laughed, aBoldnd that special moment is captured above.

It was a very happy moment for me to meet Ruby. She follows her passion and is such a great example of anyone who shares the abundance of a good recipe--or their craft. I saw a lot of her in me---cooking just for the sake of sharing, building for the sake of building. How important that is with our family recipes and our individual talents with the world! One thing, for sure, Ruby does only a way Ruby can. And......(come closer) can you!

PS: Oh, the Peanut Butter Fudge was sublime. Three "YUMS" up!!!

From Maine and Sebago Lakes area,

Keith A. Neubert, Innkeeper