Dear Sun Spots: I noticed that in today’s (Sept. 26) Sun Spots, a question was asked about conservation easements in Maine.

I thought I might be able to add some more information on the topic. I work for USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and we have a new program called the grassland reserve program that helps landowners restore and protect grassland, pastureland and other lands.

The goal is to help landowners conserve their land to prevent it from being converted to non-agricultural use. There are several enrollment options, including permanent and 30-year easements. The USDA makes a payment to the owner based on which enrollment option they choose. For more information, go or contact the USDA service center in your county. – Amanda Brown, Farmington.

Dear Sun Spots: Calvary Christian Academy is looking for a used, small upright freezer. If you have one that you no longer need, we would be glad to take it off your hands. Please call Mary at 225-3665 during the hours of 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thank you. – Mary Crane, Turner.

Dear Sun Spots: I wonder if Hannaford would be willing to share their recipe for their pistachio nut muffins? They are the best. – D.M., Lewiston.

Unfortunately their supplier does not provide that. However, perhaps you and your family will enjoy the following recipes from the California Pistachio Commission:

Pistachio Muffins. Ingredients: 2 cups whole wheat flour; ¾ cup light brown sugar (packed); ½ cup old-fashioned oats, ¼ cup natural pistachio nuts, chopped; 1 tablespoon baking powder; ½ teaspoon salt; ¾ cup low-fat (2 percent) milk; ½ cup applesauce; ½ cup canola oil; 1 egg; Topping (recipe follows).

Method: Mix flour, sugar, oats, pistachios, baking powder and salt in bowl, stirring with spoon until well blended. Add milk, applesauce, oil and egg all at once. Stir lightly just to mix. Don’t overmix or texture will suffer. Spoon into 12 greased, paper-lined muffin cups. Spoon topping over batter. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 18 to 22 minutes or until golden brown, turning pan around after 15 minutes for even browning. Cool 5 minutes; then remove from pan and cool on wire rack. Topping: Mix ¼ cup chopped pistachios with 2 tablespoons (packed) brown sugar.

Variation: Pistachio Crunch Muffins: Mix ¼ cup dark or golden raisins and 1 tablespoon grated orange peel into dry ingredients.

Pistachio Muffins. Ingredients:
2 cups flour; 3/4 cups sugar; 2 teaspoons baking powder; ½ teaspoon cinnamon; ¼ teaspoon baking soda; ¼ teaspoon salt; 6 ounces sweet cooking chocolate, coarsely chopped; ½ cup coarsely chopped pistachios; 1 cup milk; ½ cup butter, melted; 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel; 1 teaspoon vanilla; 1 egg, slightly beaten; 1/3 C seedless raspberry jam. Method: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin cups with paper baking cups or grease bottoms only. In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt; blend well. Reserve 1/3 cup of the largest pieces of the chocolate. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the pistachios. Stir remaining chopped chocolate and pistachios into dry ingredients. In small bowl, combine milk, butter, lemon peel, vanilla and egg; blend well. Add to dry ingredients all at once; stir until dry ingredients are just moistened. Fill each muffin cup with 2 heaping tablespoons of batter. Spoon teaspoon of the jam in center of batter in each cup. Spoon about 1 heaping tablespoon of the remaining batter over the jam in each cup. Top each with the reserved chopped chocolate and pistachios. Bake for about 20-25 or until tests done.

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