Thursday, December 31, 2009

Spicy Pepita Brittle and some resolutions...

The last day of 2009. This year more than any feels like a new beginning. Things have not been easy in 2009. It was definitely a year of change and transition. I'm trying not to fight the Fairbanks life, and am coming to terms with the fact that this is where I live for now. I'm not one for resolutions, but there are some things I want to accomplish this next year.
I want to renew my adventurous spirit (hopefully this will renew a thinner spirit as well). I would like to complete three major hikes this summer: this one, this one and this one. I would also like to ride my bike to Chena Hot Springs from our house, spend the night and ride back. I have also been very curious about this as well and if it goes well, would like to try and train for this in 2011. In addition I am hoping to revive my creative spirit by taking some art classes at the University starting with ceramics this spring semester. I'm still hoping to expand the blog to include more than just food. I'm still trying to figure that out. Food alone does not make me a well rounded girl (well, actually it does and that is the problem).
So, I wish you all a Happy New Year! Good luck with those resolutions. Don't forget to enjoy the blue moon tonight. Here's to a spicier new year...

This Pepita Brittle is great on a salad of mixed greens and gorgonzola with a simple white wine vinaigrette. It was supposed to be included on our Christmas dinner menu, but it took me several tries to get the recipe right, this is a good one. Keep an eye on the heat as once it gets to 300 degrees, the temperature really shoots up fast.

Spicy Pepita Brittle
adapted from Brittles, Barks, and BonBons
Ingredients
Butter, for pan
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups sugar
1 cup water
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 cups pepitas

Lightly butter a 10-by-15-inch jelly-roll pan and place parchment on bottom of pan, lightly butter parchment as well.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together the sugar, water, and corn syrup until the sugar is completely dissolved, about 5 minutes. Increase the heat to high and boil without stirring until the syrup is golden brown (about 335°F [168°C] on a candy thermometer), 10 to 15 minutes. When the sugar begins to brown around the edges of the pan, swirl the pan gently so that it caramelizes evenly. Quickly remove from the heat and carefully stir in the pepitas, cayenne, and salt.
Immediately pour into the prepared pan, using a spatula or wooden spoon to spread the nuts out flat if necessary. Let the brittle stand at room temperature until cool and hard, about 1 hour. Chop or break into chunks. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A little something under the tree...


Ok, so Christmas was days ago and we have already put all our presents away...but I did find something under the tree today!!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Peppermint Ice Cream

All this time off from work has given me a lot more time to linger in the kitchen. It also allows me to take photos during those precious three hours of sunlight we now have (the days are getting longer).
I have always loved peppermint ice cream. I distinctly remember being in an ice cream shop when I was a kid and being thrilled to find peppermint ice cream in July. I always favored the ones that had bits of green candies too. I also remember once being seduced by the same pink color in bubble gum ice cream, when peppermint wasn't available. Even as a kid a remember thinking that it just didn't work. How was I supposed to chew and obscene amount of gum and eat ice cream at the same time? There is something about those partially melted bits of peppermint candy that I just can't resist. I am not normally a peppermint fan, so that says something. I don't even use peppermint toothpaste!
I found this recipe last summer when I was busy whipping up seasonal specialties like Blueberry Lavender and Cranberry Sorbet. I knew I would have to make this one once Christmas rolled around. I crushed my candy canes in a food processor to the point that some of them turned to powder, this also turned the ice cream a lovely shade of pink.
Peppermint Ice Cream from Simply Recipes

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Morning Muffins

These were not our Christmas morning muffins. This was a trial run for a possible Christmas morning muffin that I made a few weeks ago. I noticed David had barely touched them. This is when he decides to tell me he doesn't really like cranberry muffins and he affirmed this by letting the remainder of the muffins sit on the plate long after breakfast was over. Blueberry muffins would have been nothing but a few crumbs by dinner. Please, do not let this stop you from making them. I thought they were delicious, perfectly spicy and tart. They would be lovely on a New Year's Day brunch table as well. You can find the recipe in Nigella Lawson's new Christmas cookbook. It is well worth the investment, I have already made several recipes and all have been a hit. Nigella's Chocolate Chip Chili from the same book earned me third place at our chili cook off at the Wood Center.
So, what did we have for our Christmas breakfast? Just a light breakfast of fruit...
and well, some Cinnamon Rolls too. It was Christmas after all!!
But sadly, no Nigella's Christmas Morning Muffins...
Hope your holiday is filled with all the goodness of the season!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Granola Bars

Well, it has been a while once again. The new job has consumed much of my time. I try to tell them that when I worked at the Alaska Bird Observatory I used to bake before I went to work in the morning and if they would just let me come in a little later they too could get scones! I try not to cry too much about my early morning work hours as now I have great benefitssuch as being able to take classes like zymurgy and next semester ceramics. Now I will be able to make my own beer and something to drink it out of! Of course, I actually made a dentist appointment for the first time in years (I’m not confessing how many). The dentist will be a good thing since I am running around like a crazy woman in the morning and am lucky if I remember to brush my teeth!
That is where these granola bars come in handy. I have always wanted to make my own granola bars. This is another one of those items that always scared me to try and make at home. Let’s face it, there are a lot of bad granola bars out there. This always leads me to believe that the item is very difficult to do well. I made them last Sunday and put a bunch in a plastic bag and threw them in my bag to munch on throughout the week. They are the perfect thing for breakfast on the go. I think they could handle any fruit and nut combination. I used what I had on hand, but I just bought some flax seed and dried blueberries that I want to try next time.

Granola Bars
adapted from Nigella Express
1 14-fl-oz can condensed milk
2 1/2 cups thick cut rolled oats
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup sesame seeds
1 cup natural unsalted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees and oil a 9- x 13-inch baking pan.
Warm the condensed milk in a large pot over medium heat.
When milk is warm and runny remove from heat and add the rest of the ingredients, stirring to coat completely. Spread the mixture into the oiled pan and press down with a spatula to make the surface even.
Bake for 1 hour, remove, and after about 15 minutes remove from pan and let cool on a cutting board, once completely cool cut into three across and four down, to make 12 chunky bars. Stored in an airtight container they will last at least a week.

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