Paula Anderson, beloved writer of our Coastal Cooking column for 20 years, presented her final New Year’s Eve menu on Dec. 28. She’s off to enjoy a true retirement … for now.

I bet she’ll find something creative and interesting to do with her free time now that she’s liberated herself from the Coastal Journal “kitchen.”

She included the following note when she sent her last column:

“After 20 years of writing for the Coastal Journal, I look back at my growth as a writer and all the different avenues I chose to take Coastal Cooking down.

“I can proudly say I’ve missed but one deadline in 20 years (due to illness) and I’ve loved stretching my abilities to come up with topics and recipes that have kept people reading my column every week.

“I’ve corresponded with dozens of people over the years and many have become personal friends. I even reconnected with a childhood friend who saw my column and recognized me. We’ve had lunch together and after 50 years since last seeing each other, we are having a ball getting to know each other as adults.

“As Ina Garten would say, ‘How good is THAT?’”

It’s pretty darn good. Paula’s recipes bulge from a file folder on my efficiently disorganized cookbook shelf, a “problem” that only got worse once I came to work at the Coastal Journal and received all of Paula’s recipes for the month in a single email.

So much to cook and so little … well, in my case, counter space.

Over the last few weeks, the Coastal Journal received about 20 writing and recipe samples from would-be columnists hoping to make Coastal Cooking their new “kitchen.”

Every single one mentioned their own collection of clipped Paula Anderson recipes, and how much they enjoyed Coastal Cooking over the years.

I narrowed the applicant pool down to 10, and the CJ staff volunteered to make one recipe by each finalist. If you’re counting, that’s four more staff members than we actually have, so I picked up the extras. Did I mention I love to cook?

Recipes were chosen this way: “Mmmmm, that sounds so good.” Or, “Wow, that sounds so good and it looks really easy.”

Fudge Cinnamon Brownies, by Karen Schneider … and also very like the Texas Sheet Cake recipe shared by Stephanie Dustin. Both ladies shared recipes that were largely the same, except for the addition of cinnamon. Staff photo by Raye Leonard

Since that criteria is exactly why most people clip a recipe, we decided it was a good way to pick which recipes to try.

Thank you to all the home cooks, chefs, Coastal Cooking superfans, and others who sent me a writing sample.

And congratulations to the following Coastal Cooking “contestants” who made it to the Test Kitchen Round:

Oven Roasted Cauliflower, by Stephanie Danahy, former chef at King Eider’s Pub in Damariscotta;
Texas Sheet Cake, by Stephanie Dustin, a homeschooling and home-cooking mom from Bowdoin;
Tortilla Appetizer Wedges, by Amy Hranicky, owner of Benjamin Packard House B&B in Bath;
Kielbasa Broccoli Casserole, by Donna McCole, a dedicated home cook from West Bath;
Kohlrabi and Apple Slaw, by Susan Olcott, Coastal Journal Intertidal columnist, who lives in Brunswick.
A note here: Sales Assistant Denise Gregoire, who offered to make this recipe, couldn’t find kohlrabi.
Irish Nachos, by Sharon Rice, a caterer and food writer for Publisher’s Weekly, who lives in Norton, Massachusetts;
Doughnuts, by Tammy Sawyer, a dietetic technician, who lives in Nobleboro;
Fudge Cinnamon Brownies and – due to some staff confusion – Mustard Dip, by Karen Schneider, long-time food columnist for the Lewiston Sun Journal, and occasional CJ contributor, who lives in Cundy’s Harbor;
Creamy White Bean Soup with Greens, by Kim Wilson, a Coastal Cooking fan who lives in Bath;
Steak Chimichurri, by Jenny Byrnes, who returned to Bath last summer with her baby and her partner after living in Boston and Brooklyn for 10 years.

I have some explaining to do abut Jenny because she sent her writing sample after we already chose the recipes.
To stay in the running, she surprised us by dropping off her’s off for us to try alongside the ones we made.

On Monday, we tasted the results. In evaluating the recipes, we considered the following factors:

A potluck of recipes shared by Coastal Cooking applicants. Raye Leonard - Coastal Journal

1. Is the recipe clear and easy to follow?
2. Are the ingredients easy to find locally?
3. How long did it take to prepare and were the results worth it?
4. Were there any missing steps or places that needed more explanation?
5. How did it taste?

I thought it would be easy to choose a new Coastal Cooking columnist based on this most thorough and (mostly) impartial process. But, as the saying goes, there’s no accounting for taste …

By which I simply mean, we all loved something about every recipe!

Irish Nachos required some planning, but the extra effort resulted in a delicious twist on the Mexican standby. Raye Leonard - Coastal Journal

If time allowed, I’d probably go full “Cut Throat Kitchen,” and stage an elaborate and well-publicized battle of the bakers, but as dinner waits for no one, I decided instead to consult the Kitchen Goddess herself.

I sent the writing samples of the five writers who made the Test Kitchen Cut to Paula Anderson.

The staff chose them because their recipes were complete, clear and most of all, tasty.

Congratulations to Amy Hranicky, Jenny Byrnes, Karen Schneider, Sharon Rice, and Donna McCole.

I now give over the very difficult job of picking the new Coastal Cooking columnist to the one who started it.

Check back next week for the official passing of the spoon.

Recipes from the Coastal Journal Test Kitchen

Editor’s Note: These recipes are shared as they were provided to us in the cook’s writing sample. Where appropriate, I made some additional helpful notes.

Steak Chimichurri
By Jenny Byrnes

1lb beef tip, London broil or skirt steak*
1 large bunch flat leaf parsley
1 large bunch cilantro
Juice and zest of 1 lime
4 cloves and 1 tsp chopped garlic
½ red onion roughly chopped
½ cup plus 2 Tbsp olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
Dash Worchestershire sauce
Salt & pepper to taste

For steak:
Zest lime and add to a bowl with 2tbsp olive oil, salt and peppe, Worchestershire sauce and steak.
Marinate for at least one hour.
Heat cast iron pan or grill to medium high heat. Sear steak (depending on cut) 3-6 minutes per side, depending on preference on temperature.
For medium rare the steak should come off the heat when the internal temperature reaches 140 degrees.
Allow the steak to rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing.

For Sauce:
Add parsley, cilantro, lime juice, garlic cloves, onion and vinegar to food processor or blender.
Pulse several times to begin the blending process.
Set speed to low and continue blending while streaming olive oil slowly into the sauce. When half of the olive oil has been added, stop processor, remove lid and mix with rubber spatula or spoon – carefully scraping any of the mixture stuck to the sides down into the sauce.
Replace lid, start again on low and stream in the remaining olive oil.

Serve sliced steak over garlic toast, salad, rice or on its own.

Variations to sauce:
For a creamy sauce: Add ½ avocado while blending
For spicy: Add dash of hot sauce or diced jalapeno or serrano pepper
For original Argentinian flavor: Add 2-4 fresh oregano leaves

*Cut of your choice.This recipe will work well with any cut of beef cooked to your preference.Can also substitute fish, chicken or shrimp.

Oven Roasted Cauliflower
(gluten-free, vegan)
By Stephanie Danahy

1 large head of cauliflower, cored, and cut into bite-size florets
1 tsp. of Kosher salt
2 1/4 tsp. of turmeric
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (less if you do not like spicy food)
3/4 tsp. cumin
3/4 tsp. coriander
3/4 tsp. ginger powder
3/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper (course grind)
1/4 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Put cut cauliflower into a medium bowl.
In a small bowl mix remains ingredients
Add mixed ingredients to cauliflower and toss well, coating cauliflower with spice mix.
Place cauliflower on a parchment lined baking tray with sides.
Bake for 15 minutes and turn tray.
Bake for another 10 minutes. Cauliflower should have a slight crunch.
4-5 servings

Tortilla Appetizer Wedges
By Amy Hranicky

10 flour tortillas (10 inch)
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature (reduced fat cream cheese can be substituted)
1 C shredded cheddar cheese
½ C sour cream
1 can green chilies, chopped
¼ C scallions, chopped
Cayenne pepper to taste
Cumin to taste
Fresh cilantro, lime wedges and salsa for serving

Mix cream cheese and sour cream until blended. Fold in cheddar cheese, chilies and scallions. Add cayenne and cumin to taste. Lay out one tortilla and spread with about 2-3 T of the cream cheese mixture. Top with another tortilla and more cream cheese. Continue stacking and spreading until you have a stack of 5 tortillas.

Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.Build a second stack with the remaining 5 tortillas and cream cheese mixture.

Before serving cut each stack into 8 wedges, arrange on a platter and serve with lime wedges, fresh cilantro and fresh salsa.

16 servings

Staff note: Kathy McDonough prepared these wedges. She had trouble finding 10-inch tortillas. She also wished she had a place to start with adding seasonings “to taste.”

Irish Nachos
By Sharon Jones

5 large yellow skin potatoes, scrubbed
2 cups low-fat cheddar cheese
1/2 cup cooked and chopped turkey bacon
4 sliced green onions
1 tomato, chopped
¼ cup of vegetable or canola oil
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
Sour cream, guacamole, and hot sauce for serving

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.Slice potatoes 1/4-inch thick and place in a bowl of cold water for 15 minutes. Drain and pat dry with paper towels.

Toss potatoes with 1/4 cup oil.Place on a non-stick or parchment-lined baking sheet, separating potatoes as space allows.Bake 30-35 minutes or until browned and crispy.

Increase oven heat to 475 degrees.

In medium-sized bowl, combine cheese, bacon, green onions, reserving a handful of green onion for garnish. Layer half of potatoes in a well-greased oven-proof skillet (cast-iron works best; do not use a glass dish).

Top with cheese mixture.Repeat with second layer.Bake 15-25 minutes, until cheese is melted. Top with remaining green onions, tomato and jalapeno.Serve with guacamole, hot sauce and sour cream.
Yield: 6 Servings

Staff note: Both reporter Chris Chase and I made these nachos and agreed they are delicious. We recommend doing the potatoes in advance and finishing the recipe closer to when you plan to serve it. Between the slicing, soaking, and baking, the potatoes took about an hour or more to prepare. Totally worth it in the end, but this is not a recipe you can just throw together … like … well … nachos.

Kielbasa Broccoli Casserole
By Donna McCole

1 package of Kielbasa (regular or light)
2 bunches of fresh broccoli or 2 packages of frozen broccoli
¾ package of egg or egg-less noodles
4 tablespoons of flour
4 tablespoons of butter
3 cups of milk
1 ½ cups of parmesan cheese or freshly grated parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste

Casserole is baked in an 11×13 inch greased glass or metal pan, at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Preheat oven.
Cut the kielbasa into ½ inch slices and put in a large pot with water.Boil for 10 minutes.
After that, add the noodles to the water and kielbasa and cook noodles until done. Drain.
Make a white sauce out of the flour, butter, salt, pepper, and milk: Melt butter in a medium to large sauce pan, add flour and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the milk slowly; stirring constantly with a wisk until all the milk is added and mixture is bubbly. Add the parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and stir until melted, set aside. Cook or thaw the broccoli.
Assemble the casserole:Layer the broccoli in the pan, add kielbasa and noodles on top of that, pour the parmesan sauce over all of the ingredients and stir in a little.
Cover the casserole with aluminum foil and bake.
This recipe feeds 4 comfortably or if you are a senior couple, eat it for a few days. Enjoy!

Kohlrabi and Apple Slaw
By Susan Olcott

2 kohlrabi bulbs (1 lb.)
2 apples (any local variety you can get, or granny smith)
½ c Greek yogurt
2 T apple cider vinegar
2 t honey
1 t mustard
Salt and pepper

Peel and shred the kohlrabi and apples using a box grater or food processor.
Mix together yogurt, vinegar, honey and mustard. Season with salt and pepper.
Toss dressing with vegetables.
Refrigerate until ready to eat.This gets better the longer it sits.
4 servings

By Tammy Sawyer

3 eggs beaten
1 cup sugar
Little salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons cream of tarter
1 cup sour milk
4 cups flour
3 Tablespoons melted shortening
Little nutmeg
1T almond extract
1 ½ pounds Crisco for frying

Mix the eggs with the sugar, salt and extract.
Add the cream of tartar, nutmeg and baking soda to the flour.
Alternately add the flour and the milk ending with the flour.
Deep fry in hot oil.
Roll in sugar or cinnamon sugar if desired when hot.

Editor’s note: I made these doughnuts on a Sunday with my kids. They were a big hit, but I relied on my general kitchen know-how to fill in some gaps with this recipe. I left out the melted shortening altogether, because while it is listed as an ingredient, the cook did not say when to add it.

(With the milk, Tammy said, when I asked her.)

I also dropped the batter by the spoonful into the fat. That made something closer to a beignet than a doughnut. Tammy said she usually refrigerates the dough, then rolls it out and cuts it will a special doughnut cutter.

None of which she mentioned in the recipe. 

Still, these were excellent, especially warm and rolled in cinnamon sugar.

Mustard Dip
By Karen Schneider

1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. garlic powder
3 Tbsp. oil
3 tsp. yellow mustard
1 Tbsp. wine or apple cider vinegar
1 cup mayonnaise

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl except mayonnaise.Refrigerate at least one hour.
Stir in mayo.

Refrigerate at least three hours longer.
Yield: 1 1/2 cups.

Fudge Cinnamon Brownies
By Karen Schneider

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup butter
7 Tbsp. cocoa
1 cup water
1/2 cup milk w/1 tsp. vinegar added
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon

Stir together milk and vinegar and set aside. Sift together flour and sugar in mixing bowl.

Mix together butter, cocoa and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Slowly pour mixture over flour and sugar and blend with electric mixer. Add milk and vinegar, eggs, vanilla, baking soda and cinnamon; mix well.

Spread in greased 15 1/2×10 1/2×1-inch baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Cool in pan on rack.

Chocolate Fudge Frosting
1/2 cup butter
5 Tbsp. cocoa
6 Tbsp. milk
1 lb. confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Melt butter in medium saucepan. Add cocoa and milk; stir, bringing to a boil. Remove from heat. Add sugar and vanilla;beat until smooth.

Pour over brownies while warm and spread to cover. Cool and cut into squares.
Yield:35 squares.

Texas Sheet Cake
By Stephanie Dustin

In a saucepan combine and heat till boiling
1 cup water
3 1/2 Tablespoons cocoa
2 sticks butter
1/4 teaspoon salt

Remove pan from heat and add:

2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
stir till combined and add
1/2 cup sour cream, buttermilk, sour milk, or yogurt (any will work)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 beaten eggs

Use your immersion blender to smooth out your batter.
Pour batter into a greased and floured jelly roll pan/sheet pan or into a 9 x 11 cake pan.
If using sheet pan bake 15 minutes and until a toothpick comes out clean.
If using a cake pan bake 20 minutes and until toothpick comes out clean.

Texas Sheetcake Frosting
In a sauce pan combine and bring to a boil
1 stick butter
3 1/2 Tablespoons cocoa
6 Tablespoons milk or half n half
3 cups powdered sugar

Remove from heat and add:
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans(optional)

Frost a partially cooled cake.

Creamy White Bean Soup with Greens
By Kim Wilson

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 – 16 oz. cans canellini (white kidney beans),rinsed and drained
1 – 14 oz. can chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cups water
1 bunch fresh spinach, kale or Swiss chard, rinsed; stems removed and chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Parmesan cheese

In a large saucepan, heat oil. Cook onion and celery for 5 to 8 minutes until tender. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir in beans, broth, pepper, thyme and water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

With a slotted spoon, remove 2 cups of the bean and vegetable mixture from the soup and set aside.
In a blender at low speed, blend the remaining soup in batches until smooth (be careful; mixture will be hot). Once blended, pour the pureed mixture back into the pot and add back the reserved bean mixture.

Bring all to a boil, stirring occasionally. Stir in the greens just before serving and cook about 1 minute, until wilted. Stir in lemon juice. Serve with freshly grated parmesan on top.
Serves 4








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