Monday, September 26, 2011

Highbush Cranberry Jelly

Our first fall in Fairbanks I distinctly remember walking up the hill behind our house and exclaiming, "What is that smell?" This was not in a good way. This smell reminded me of a cross between gym socks and a musty old antique book store. I thought for sure that something had died and was decomposing in the leaves somewhere. Now, I don't know a lot about food writing...but I am pretty sure that you are not supposed to use smelly gym socks, and decomposing in the opening paragraph to describe something you are about to eat. Yup, I am about to go there. You see, I discovered the source of this fine scent was actually the highbush cranberry that was growing like mad along the edge of the trail. Surely they can't be edible? It turns out that they are indeed edible and often I now see highbush cranberry jelly at the Farmer's Market. I myself could never imagine making such a thing. Really, how could I even stand to pick them? I have to hold my breath each time I walk past them.
How was it that I ended up not only picking 4 cups of these berries, but bringing them into my house and cooking them? I blame it on Hank Shaw. That's right that Hank Shaw from Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook. It is his fault. I have been a fan of Hank's site for a couple of years now. I finally had the opportunity to meet him (only for a brief moment) at Blogher Food in Atlanta last spring. The one piece of advice he had for me was that I needed to try the moose meatballs from his site. He said, "they will blow your mind". So, I patiently waited for moose season to come around in Alaska. We don't hunt ourselves, but someone usually kindly offers us a little moose meat each season. A couple of weeks ago I finally found myself with the moose meat I had been waiting for. This is when I realized that Hank's recipe called for one dreaded ingredient, highbush cranberry jelly. Now, to be fair he did mention I could substitute lowbush cranberry (lingonberry) jelly. I really wanted to try the recipe as it was intended. I suffered through the picking, and jelly making, and even as I took the photos for this post. In the end I was glad I did, the meatballs were amazing, but it was the sauce that really made the dish. The highbush cranberry added a real earthy taste. I don't see myself smearing this jelly on toast anytime soon, but I will be making the meatballs and the highbush cranberry sauce again for sure.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Congo Bars

This time of year it becomes painfully obvious when I have not been keeping up with this site. Especially when I choose to take photos outside. These photos were only taken a few short weeks ago and yet there is still fireweed in our yard and the trees are green. Since then we have gone to bright yellow and sadly this morning with a little wind most of the leaves have fallen leaving a bright yellow blanket on the ground.
Although I made these congo bars a few weeks ago, I think they are actually more appropriate for this time of year. I read somewhere that these were named congo bars in a marketing effort to make them sound exotic. I have always been a fan of chocolate chip pan cookies and honestly these are them, just with a fancier name. I prefer making this type of pan cookies as they are far less work. No endless scooping and swapping out pans. Not to mention they are great if you are feeding a crowd, but very bad if you are home alone! I used a mix of pecan and walnuts because I didn't have enough of one or the other. Feel free to choose one if you have a preference.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Eat Your Books

Do you know how many cookbooks you own? Above is what my kitchen bookshelf looked like only a few months ago. The photo at the bottom was taken over a year ago. This is only about 25% of the total cookbooks I own. I rotate the cookbooks on this shelf according to the ones I use the most, so they are the most convenient. The shelf changes depending on what new cookbooks I have and also varies by season. You will see that some have a permanent home on the kitchen shelf. The truth of the matter is that until very recently I rarely used my cookbooks for every day cooking. Sure, when I first purchase them I look through them and cook a few recipes, then they go back on the shelf. The problem is that the internet is so much more handy when it comes to finding a specific recipe. Although I love my cookbooks and would never have given them up, I just didn't find them useful for finding something for dinner. Even though I have a couple of cookbooks specifically for that task.
My internet recipe habit has lead to extreme cookbook guilt. Why have all these cookbooks if you aren't going to use them, I ask myself? Well, thankfully I'm not the only one who must be having this problem. A couple of months ago I signed up for a new service called Eat Your Books, I mentioned them back in July in this post. I initially signed up for the free trial, but after entering only a couple of my books I realized what a valuable tool it was going to be and paid for the full year subscription. You see, you can search all of the cookbooks you own just as you would for a recipe on the internet. You find what you are looking for an then pull the book off your own shelf to get the recipe. Not to mention I can tell you that I own 143 cookbooks that contain 20, 487 recipes!
I am still using the service and my cookbooks regularly. About a week ago I was having a late night craving for chocolate chip cookies. The thing is that it was late and the idea of scooping out endless cookies and cooking several batches did not sound all that fun. Sometimes I want to bake, other times I just want to eat cookies! So, I typed chocolate chips, nuts, and bars into Eat Your Books and came up with a great recipe for Congo Bars, essentially chocolate chip cookies without all the work (don't worry, I'll post this recipe soon). The recipe was in a very small book that would be lost in the shuffle normally. If this had been a few month ago I would have immediately looked for a recipe on the internet.
Ok, so why would I be telling you all of this? Well, I honestly believe it is a great product and wanted you to know about it. Also, the more people that use it, the better it becomes as there are sections to review the recipes you have made with other readers. Plus, I really don't want it to go away.
***The giveaway that was originally associated with this post is now complete. Thanks to all who entered and congratulations to the winner. The winner has been notified and has accepted their prize.
Full Disclosure: The views expressed in this post are all my own. I contacted Eat Your Books to ask them if they would like to offer a giveaway on my site. They in turn offered to provide a lifetime membership to the winner of the giveaway.
In addition I was personally offered a free lifetime membership and they have also offered to link all my recipe posts from cookbooks in the review section of their site. I am thrilled to be accepting both offers.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Moroccan Carrot Hummus

I don't remember being such a big fan of carrots before moving to Fairbanks. In fact I don't really remember getting very excited about vegetables at the market at all. I liked them all well enough, but always took them for granted. The last vegetable I remember getting really excited about was romanesco. I remember the first time I saw it at the Port Townsend Farmer's Market. I didn't know what it was, but I had to have one. Since then I have tried it several ways, but my favorite way to eat it is still raw. It makes a beautiful presentation on a vegetable platter along with a nice dip such as this roast carrot hummus. I like adding harissa when I am serving it with romanesco as I think it pairs nicely with a little spice. If you like things a little more mild, feel free to leave it out.
These days I get excited about all the vegetables. I can't wait to see what is at the market each week. This time of year I especially love roasting all the lovely root vegetables. Not only are they delicious, but roasting them keeps the house a little warmer too.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Caramel Apple Cake

Three years ago today I started this blog. As each year goes by I can hardly believe I am still going at it. They say that blog years are kind of like dog years, each one equals seven. So many people come and go each year, last count it was said there are over 11,000 food bloggers. I honestly thought food blogs were going to be a fad. I figured everyone would have moved on to something else by now. Yet it seems that this community keeps on growing, while becoming closer than ever. This space has always been about community to me. It started with exchanging some jelly very soon after I got my start. It eventually grew into following a few other bloggers and eventually they followed me back. Finally, about a year in I started meeting some of those people in real life. Real friendships have blossomed. The blog has grown, and I have learned so much in the process, and I'm not just talking about cooking.
Every year at this time I get a renewed excitement about this space. Maybe it is the fact that we try not to turn the heat on until October, so I find myself lingering in the kitchen a lot more. Fall is a time when things start slowing down. The leaves are already changing to yellow. As much as I love summer veggies and fresh greens, there is nothing more comforting to me than the foods of the fall season. I find much more inspiration in root vegetables, apples, pears, and cranberries.
So, this week I asked around the office as to what kind of cake the blog might like for its birthday. I initially received a lackluster response. You see, they haven't really caught on yet that the blog can't actually eat cake. There are always leftovers when I make food for the blog. Once I explained the situation it was obvious that everyone was feeling the effects of the cooler and shorter days. All the requests were for fall flavors. What better cake for this fall weather than caramel apple? This recipe is pretty involved, I recommend spreading the work over two days if you are going to tackle this project. I made the cake and caramel sauce the first day. The next I made the frosting and assembled the cake. I also had a little trouble with the frosting separating, but after a lot of mixing on high speed it eventually came back together. I had almost given up on it, I'm glad I didn't.

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