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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Double Chocolate Bourbon Balls

I was doing some planning at work yesterday, looking at the schedule and making some plans for the next couple of Wednesdays. Then I realized I couldn't plan a class for the next two Wednesdays because the second Wednesday would be Christmas! Two weeks until Christmas and these bourbon balls are the only holiday recipe I have made so far. I was thinking how fun it would be to make all kinds of cookies now that I have lots of co-workers again. The only problem is that I am now at work ALL THE TIME. I'm not complaining, the job has been great and the hours fly by. Most days it is 3-4 in the afternoon before I look at the clock for the first time.
If you are short on time and need something quick for the holiday season, these bourbon balls come together really quickly. There's no baking involved, although they are best when left to sit in the fridge for a day or two before serving. I substituted the traditional vanilla wafers with chocolate ones, so these bourbon balls are nearly black in color. Without the powdered sugar they do look like little lumps of coal, so they make a perfect gift for someone naughty (or nice)! Also be warned, since these bourbon balls are not cooked the alcohol content is pretty potent. This treat is not appropriate for children or lightweights (like me).

Monday, December 2, 2013

Spicy Three Bean Chili with Corn

With the exception of Thanksgiving, there hasn't been a whole lot of cooking going on around here lately. Although I did make some mean enchiladas with green mole from the leftovers that I hope to share eventually.
I made this chili at the end of October and I think this is a good week to share it. After all the indulgences of this past weekend, it's nice to have something a little healthy feeling. This chili is still hearty enough to keep away the winter chill. It's the perfect thing after a big long walk at 25 below zero. Even though this recipe can be put together quite quickly, I do recommend letting it simmer for as long as you have time. There are a lot of spices that need to incorporate into the chili and I liked it better the second day. It would be the perfect chili to make the night before and then slowly simmer on the stove to heat the next day. I would have loved to have a bowl of this waiting for me when we got back from our dog walk on Sunday. It was chilly out there, it always takes me a few tries with my layering system to get everything right. The problem is that I usually wear too many layers and then get hot and sweaty. When I get back home I end up chilled. Who knew it was possible to sweat at 25 below zero? I also find it hilarious that the colder it is outside, the more our goofy dogs like to roll around in the snow. I love seeing their happy tails wagging and their frosty faces as they bound through the deep snow. As fun and beautiful as it is outside, we are all happy to come inside for a nap by the wood stove followed by a good, hearty meal.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Spicy Sweet Onion Dip

Thanksgiving is in two days you say? Really? How did that happen? The last few weeks of my life has been an endless sea of beer, wine, and liquor bottles. Don't worry, I'm not writing to you from rehab! I am finally comfortable announcing that I have a new job. I hope to talk about it more later, but after much thought I decided to make a major career change. My position is Beer Sales Manager at a brand new store here in Fairbanks. Besides the fact that I feel like I have been doing aerobics twelve hours a day for weeks (because I have), I'm really loving the job. Now that the place is open I am enjoying chatting with customers about beer and seeing the excitement over such a huge selection. I'll soon be teaching beer education classes every week and I'll have opportunities to improve my own knowledge as well. Not to mention that my next "business" trip will be attending the Beer and Barley Wine Festival in Anchorage.
So, to say the least...I'm totally not prepared for Thanksgiving. For our first Thanksgiving together David and I had chips and salsa for dinner. I had just returned from a long trip the night before and he worked all day on Thanksgiving. We were both exhausted, so we stopped at the grocery store and picked up a bottle of wine and some chips and salsa. To remember that first year, we now have a Mexican/American Thanksgiving every year by spicing up some of those traditional dishes. It is the one time each year I make mole sauce. This year I'm so exhausted that chips and salsa and a bottle of wine sounds pretty good. I'd have plenty of wine to choose from!
I think I could also muster up enough energy to make this Spicy Sweet Onion Dip as well. This dip is incredibly easy and very delicious. It was the very first recipe I bookmarked from Todd and Diane's new book called Bountiful. It's a really beautiful book full of recipes from their home garden and mini orchard. I spiced up the original recipe with some hot sauce and red pepper flakes resulting in a sweet and spicy combination that is hard to resist. Make sure you use the sweet onions from the grocery store and not the regular brown/yellow onions. They are usually labeled Mayan Sweets and this year our Fred Meyer store had a huge display of them. This would make a perfect appetizer to keep the hunger pangs away while waiting for Thanksgiving dinner, or if you are having a week like mine, the perfect dinner.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Roasted Cauliflower with Cumin and Pomegranate


Every year when the first pomegranates of the season show up at the grocery store I can't resist buying one. A few pomegranate seeds sprinkled on a dish really adds a festive touch. I like to use the water bowl method to de-seed my pomegranates, but this (ahem) spanking method seems to be making the rounds on the internet these days. Have you tried either method, or maybe both? Which do you prefer? Do you have another method for de-seeding a pomegranate? I'd love to hear about it. Leave me a message in the comments.
I like to keep the seeds in a small bowl in the refrigerator, that way I can quickly add them to salads or even on my morning granola or oatmeal. A simple winter fruit salad is especially beautiful with pomegranate seeds.
This roasted cauliflower recipe is one I have been meaning to make for a long time. I love roasted vegetables in the winter. I can go for months without roasting a single vegetable and then the cold weather sets in and roasted vegetables are the only thing I want to eat. They seem to show up with every meal. I had never roasted cauliflower before and I have to say that it might be the only way I eat cauliflower from now on. It has a wonderful nutty flavor that you don't get when you steam it or eat it raw. This dish makes a nice lunch, or a great side dish with roast chicken, it would also be a great accompaniment to Indian food as well.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Creamy Sunchoke Soup

A few years ago I had some sunchokes in a CSA. I had never cooked with them before and wasn't really sure what to do with them. We had been getting behind with our CSA, fruits and veggies were taking over our kitchen, so I decided to make this monstrosity Squash, Sunchoke, and Pear Lasagna. I still consider that experiment one of the bigger disasters I have had on this site. I couldn't bear to see all that expensive produce go to waste, so we suffered through two nights of trying to get that horribly heavy, and dry lasagna down. When I went to look for that post I realized it was exactly five years ago today that I posted about that experience. I haven't had another sunchoke since. You can now find them in the grocery store in Fairbanks on occasion. It wasn't until I saw some exceptionally beautiful ones in the produce section of our new Co-op that I seriously started thinking about giving them another try.  Then, by chance I was making another recipe and on the opposing page of the cookbook was a recipe for this creamy sunchoke soup.
I love the nutty flavor and simplicity of this soup. It is however, incredibly rich. I recommend serving it in small portions. The soup would make a great starter for Thanksgiving dinner. I'm definitely warming to the idea of sunchokes and hope to try them again soon. I'll just be keeping them out of my lasagna for now. Have you tried sunchokes? Any great recipes you would like to share? Please leave them in the comments. Thanks!

Friday, November 15, 2013

New Fangled Old-Fashioned

I feel like I always have a bottle of dark rum sitting around the kitchen. The thing is that most of the liquor you find in my house comes not from making cocktails, but baking, or making preserves. Most of the time I just buy the tiniest bottle I can find, but unfortunately (or maybe not) dark rum only comes in the very large size bottle. So, as I looked through the new book "Winter Cocktails", this one caught my eye. It was both the rum and the cherry bitters actually. I've become a bit of a bitters fanatic, well maybe fanatic is a little strong since this is only my fourth bottle. It all started with the amazing margarita recipe from White on Rice couple that uses orange bitters instead of triple sec. I don't make my margaritas any other way now.
So, I knew that dark rum and cherry bitters was bound to be a winning combination as well. This cocktail is a new take on the classic Old-Fashioned cocktail. I have to say it's a lot more fun! To top it all off I got to buy a box of sugar cubes. Do you have any idea how fun sugar cubes are? I had a hard time not taking them all out of the box and making my very own igloo.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Bake Shoppe Peanut Butter Cookies

I have been trying to find the perfect homemade peanut butter cookie for a couple of years now. The kind like you get from the corner bake shoppe (if you live in the kind of place with a corner bake shoppe). Nothing fancy, just a good, solid peanut butter cookie. I couldn't help but wonder if the world really needed another recipe for Peanut Butter Cookies? Then that got me to thinking about why I started this blog in the first place. This started as a place for me to keep my recipes, a place for notes, for trial and error. In the beginning I made several brownie recipes and several chocolate chip cookie recipes trying to find the perfect one. Over time I grew more concerned about what my readers wanted to see, I tried to do more of whatever it was that was driving more traffic to this little old corner of the internet. Many times I think I have been guilty of trying to be original or unique, when to be honest all I really wanted was one really good peanut butter cookie. Don't get me wrong, I like to be cute and clever at times and those recipes are really tasty. Sometimes I don't post things here because I think that it's not something really all that exciting. Then I thought about it like this...I think of this space as a place where friends should gather, to sit down with me over a cup of coffee. If you came to my house for a chat and a morning cup of coffee and I offered you these peanut butter cookies would you tell me that you had already been at Jane's house and she also made peanut butter cookies and she served them on a much fancier plate and last week Mary made you some peanut butter cookies drizzled with chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt? Would you say these cookies seem a little plain compared to all the other peanut butter cookies you have been eating? No, of course not. Well, if you did I'm not sure how long we would be friends!
What I did realize in making these cookies is that peanut butter cookies are only as good as the peanut butter they are made with. This is true with so many recipes, good quality ingredients really matter. So, make sure you are using peanut butter that you would want to eat straight out of the jar with a spoon, because that is what these cookies are going to taste like. So, if you too are still looking for that perfect yet simple peanut butter cookie, then pull out your best ingredients and give these a try. I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Buttermilk Pie

Three years, three and a half years to be exact. It took me that long to try this pie and I have to question my sanity for waiting so long. If you like buttermilk, don't be like me and wait until you have a carton of buttermilk that is close to going bad before making this pie. You see, in addition to eating less meat, I'm also obsessing about not wasting food. So when I accidentally bought way too much buttermilk after making a red velvet cake for a friends birthday, I furiously starting searching for recipes to use the remaining three cups from the quart (yes, I do have another recipe that I made with the remaining two cups after making this pie). Then I remembered a recipe I had bookmarked over three years ago, it came after a visit to the Hominy Grill in Charleston, South Carolina. I had stopped in one morning for breakfast when a woman at the table next to me ordered a slice of buttermilk pie for breakfast. Her friends teased her a bit, enough to draw the attention of the neighboring tables. When her pie arrived I think we were all secretly wondering why we didn't order pie for breakfast. I chuckled when the waiter took my plate away and asked if I wanted any dessert after my breakfast. I thought he was just joking because of the woman who ordered the pie. The next morning when I went back for breakfast, another waiter asked the same thing at the end of my meal. Then I noticed other tables being asked the same thing at the end of their breakfast and some were indeed ordering dessert after breakfast. I'll tell you I was tempted, but pie after biscuits and gravy is just a bit too much for me. After I left Charleston I couldn't stop thinking about that buttermilk pie. I had never heard of it before and was curious what it would taste like. When I returned home I bookmarked the Hominy Grill site, at the time they had their recipe for buttermilk pie on the site. I've looked at it a few times, but just never got around to making it. Maybe that's a good thing. This pie is way too easy to make for it to be this good. The recipe is no longer on the Hominy Grill website because they have now published their own cookbook. I can see why if all the recipes are as good as this one. With a little research I found that the recipe for buttermilk pie in The New York Times Cookbook is actually the Hominy Grill recipe. Since I never actually had the pie at Hominy Grill I can't tell you how close it is to the original, but I can tell you it is everything I imagined it would be. Smooth, custardy, tangy buttermilk pie, what are you waiting for?


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Mushroom Bourguignon

For many reasons, I have been trying to cut back on our consumption of meat lately. I'm going with the opposite of the meatless Monday trend. I'm trying to make the majority of our meals meatless with only one special meal that includes meat each week, or maybe a couple meals with a much smaller serving of meat such as soups or stews. Like I said, there are many good reasons to make the switch to eating less meat and they all have come into play in my decision, but I also have to say that I am enjoying the challenge of coming up with easy weeknight non-meat meals. This one isn't technically vegetarian as it includes beef broth, but you could easily substitute vegetable broth if you were indeed looking for a true vegetarian dish.
I was inspired to make this after I saw fresh pearl onions in the grocery store. I thought it would be fun to give them a try. They are kind of fussy for a weeknight meal however, the peeling of all those little onions was more than I really wanted to take on. The second time I made the dish I used frozen pearl onions and noticed little in the way of difference in flavor, but the substitution brought the dish from special weekend meal to a possible weeknight dinner. I served the mushrooms over whole wheat egg noodles, the hearty whole wheat flavor was a nice compliment to the mushrooms, but I could see this served over rice or mashed potatoes too.
Have you ever peeled fresh pearl onions? What did you think, worth the effort?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Bittersweet Chocolate Crunch Bars


*Full Disclosure: I am a HUGE fan of Mast Brothers chocolate, I was not paid to write this post, and I purchased the cookbook myself. 

A few times a year I will order special chocolate to savor in small pieces over several nights by the wood stove. Mast Brothers is one of a handful of places I regularly order from. Now it goes without saying that they have great chocolate, but I wasn't really sure that would translate to a great cookbook. I knew the book would be beautiful (it is), but would any of the recipes actually be appropriate for a home cook? I was hesitant to make the purchase (the book isn't cheap) until I saw the trailer. Have you seen the trailer for the Mast Brothers cookbook? It's fun and clever and probably the best cookbook trailer ever! Go watch it now...I'll wait 'til you get back....

So fun, right? After watching it I immediately purchased the book. I was still nervous, would this just be another cookbook that I enjoy "reading" and then it goes on the shelf, never to be cracked open again? When the book came in I sat down with my little pile of page markers. When I first buy a book I usually only mark recipes that really stand out, things I want to make immediately. It wasn't long before I had 12 recipes marked and I wasn't even half way into the book. The recipes like this one that I am sharing today are fairly easy to make. No hard to find ingredients or complex techniques, they really are family recipes (chocolate family recipes) that you might find in your Mom's recipe box. This book won't be sitting on a shelf anytime soon.
As for this recipe, I cut the original in half. There are only two of us in the house and I don't have co-workers to share this stuff with right now. Even with half the recipe I still had to tuck a few pieces in my neighbors mailbox so we wouldn't eat a whole (half) batch. The one thing that I liked about this cookbook is nowhere in any of the recipes did they say you had to use Mast Brothers chocolate. Since I like to eat my Mast Brothers Chocolate in its purest form I used Ghirardelli Bittersweet baking bars for this recipe. Also, the finished bars are a bit crumbly, you will want to slice them into thick pieces otherwise they will crumbly to bits.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Pork Chops with Madeira Bay Butter Sauce

Lately I've been in the mood for good, reliable food. It's not that I'm not feeling food adventurous, it's just after being away from my kitchen all summer I am craving all my old favorites. At first I was wondering how I could make that work with this site, but then I realized that a lot of my older posts for some of my favorite foods could use a little sprucing up. I think it's a good thing to bring those tried and true recipes back to the spotlight. These pork chops are another recipe on regular rotation here. They come from Rozanne Gold's cookbook, Radically Simple. I love this cookbook because it includes super quick and easy meals that look like they could have come from some fancy restaurant. Every time I sit down to eat these pork chops I'm rather stunned by how beautiful they are. I think part of it is that they take so little time to make. It's almost as though they arrive on your table by magic.
The original recipe calls for fresh tarragon, but in the last few years it has become more difficult to find in Fairbanks. Now, I use fresh thyme for sprinkling on top, but I recommend substituting tarragon if you can find it.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Spicy Chicken Rice Soup with Sweet Potato

Another quiet Halloween has come and gone. We don't get trick or treaters here in our neighborhood. I'm not even sure we have kids in our neighborhood. Once in a while I'll see a couple walking down the road or riding their ATV's at top speed kicking up dust in the summer. I'm not sure they even live close by. Either way, they don't go trick or treating apparently. Maybe our long driveway intimidates them, or maybe our three dogs that weigh a total of 275 pounds. I don't really see many kids trick or treating in town either. Usually it is just too darn cold. This year wouldn't have been so bad, it was probably in the 30's last night (above zero). We did get our required Halloween snow last night though. Don't get me wrong, I love the unseasonably warm temperatures, but this year has just been a little discomforting. No matter what, we all like to complain about the weather; too hot, too cold, too much
snow, not enough snow. These days you never know what to expect.
Now that the temperatures are finally cooling down we are officially in "soup season". I think I would eat soup for dinner every night in the winter if given the chance. I love everything about soup, the smell of it simmering on the stove all afternoon, the fact that it is warm and filling after walking the dogs, and there is usually at least enough left for lunch the next day if not a second dinner. The perfect winter meal.
This original recipe called for pearl barley, but I couldn't find any in Fairbanks. I looked in three places where the bulk bins were empty and I couldn't find it anywhere else in the store. The brown rice was a perfect substitute, but I bet quinoa would be great too. Also, if you want to give this soup an extra kick, substitute Maple Chipotle Sauce for the tomato paste. Warm and Spicy, perfect!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

How to Make Great Oatmeal

Happy National Oatmeal Day! Who decides these crazy food holidays anyway? I actually have them all downloaded on my Google Calendar. I had planned to share my method for oatmeal last week, but then when I saw that National Oatmeal Day was coming up I decided to hold off posting this for a week. It seemed appropriate. This post isn't about some decadent oatmeal recipe, although I do have plenty of those recipes too! I'm not going to tell you what you should top your oatmeal with, although you will see my favorite combination of fresh raspberries and brown sugar in these photos. This is how I make my simple, everyday bowl of oatmeal. I have not always made good oatmeal, my process has evolved over the years. The other day I realized that I probably don't make oatmeal like everyone else. I'm not a huge fan of overcooked, one texture kind of oatmeal. I like my oats to have both flavor and texture. So, I'll tell you that my method results in a more chewy kind of oatmeal than you might be used to, but every time I make it for someone they always comment that I make great oatmeal. So, I guess it's time I share my secrets. What about you, have any secrets to making great oatmeal? Share them in the comments, I'd love to hear them.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Yam and Pepita Quesadillas

Speaking of Yam and Pepita Quesadillas...you didn't think I was just going to leave you hanging with Maple Chipotle sauce and no recipe for the quesadillas, did you? Actually, these quesadillas were one of the first recipes on this site. I know many of you (well, all of you except my mother) have not been around here that long and probably don't go digging around in the archives. I thought it was time to bring them back out of hiding with a fresh new look. These quesadillas are a staple around here, especially this time of year. 
David made these quesadillas for me when we first met. He was living in Victoria, BC at the time and I was in Port Townsend, Washington. I remember thinking that he was pretty inventive to come up with such a great combination. The funny part was no less than two days later I was with a friend waiting in line for the ferry to Seattle and she happened to have the Rebar cookbook in her car. Rebar is a small restaurant in Victoria and the cookbook was pretty new at that time. She told me I should check it out and there were a lot of good recipes in it. I couldn't believe it when I saw the recipe for Yam and Pepita Quesadillas in the book. What are the chances? Occasionally I will change things up and add some black beans for a little protein boost, once we had some leftover pulled pork and that was really good too. I love how adaptable quesadillas are for leftovers. When I know it's going to be a busy week I will roast a bunch of the yams in advance for a good, quick lunch on the fly.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Maple Chipotle Sauce

It's fall...still...in Fairbanks, Alaska! I'm loving it! Really, it is not unheard of to have below zero temperatures this time of year. Certainly there should be snow by now. So, I'm having a hard time keeping myself inside. This is my favorite time of year to dawdle around in the woods; perfect temperature, no mosquitoes, and no snow. Yesterday I don't think we got any further than 3 miles from home and yet we (me and the dogs) managed to lose track of 4 hours.
On days when I would rather not spend a whole lot of time in the kitchen, quesadillas are my "fast food" of choice. With a little advance preparation they can be quite the filling and tasty dinner. This maple chipotle sauce is the base for my favorite yam and pepita quesadillas. Every time I make this sauce I think it is going to be too much and I wonder how I will use it all up, but then it just seems to magically disappear. I'll throw a few tablespoons in a pot of chili, add it to re-fried beans for a dip, smear it on grilled cheese...the possibilities are endless.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Whole Wheat Bread with Pumpkin


There is no doubt about it, we are at the peak of pumpkin season. Everywhere you look there is pumpkin. Pumpkin in in your baked goods, oatmeal, and yes it's in your coffee. Really, when you think about it, do you really want your coffee to taste like pumpkin? The truth is that the majority of pumpkin recipes don't really taste like pumpkin at all. Which is probably a good thing. Sometimes I wonder why we even bother to put the pumpkin in most pumpkin recipes at all. I understand the novelty, but why not just put the spices and call them fall spice recipes or something? So, I have decided that I would share at least of couple of recipes this fall that really let the pumpkin flavor shine through. I have to confess that I am just as guilty as anyone of sharing "pumpkin spice" recipes as well, and I can't promise that there won't be more of those too, but for now let's talk about this pumpkin bread.
First of all, I had the hardest time trying to figure out what to call it. I knew if I called it Pumpkin Bread that you would think it was one of those overly spiced types of tea cakes. I wanted you to know that this is actually bread, so maybe Yeasted Pumpkin Bread. Yet, I somehow feel like the word "yeast" doesn't scream out delicious. Maybe it's just me. So, I just went with the original name for this loaf of pumpkin goodness. I'm sorry that the pumpkin takes a back seat in the title, but it certainly does not take a back seat in flavor. The first thing I noticed when I took a bite of this bread was that it actually tasted like pumpkin. Real pumpkin! Because I really wanted to highlight the pumpkin-ness of this loaf I decided not to add any additional spices, but I think it would be wonderful with rosemary, or I'll admit maybe some of those traditional pumpkin pie spices. The loaf slices well, would make a great seasonal sandwich bread, or toast with a little cinnamon and sugar in the morning. It has a dense crumb, so I found it perfect for sopping up the broth at the end of a bowl of hot soup. A perfect fall meal if you ask me.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Pumpkin Cornflake Breakfast Pudding

I saw mention of Corn Flake Custard a while back, but the place I originally found it had no recipe. I thought it sounded like a really odd thing, so odd I needed to try it. After a bit of searching I found a recipe for a very simple version of this baked breakfast pudding. Have you ever found a recipe like that, one that sounded so strange that you just needed to make it to see what it was like? So, I bought a box of corn flakes and went to making this strange sounding breakfast, but then I wondered what it might be like with pumpkin? It's not an unusual thing to wonder this time of year. Recently I had discovered seven cans of pumpkin lingering in my cupboard, so this seemed like a good time to give Pumpkin Breakfast Pudding a try.  You know what? I would totally make this again, in fact I did, the next day. You will notice in these photos that I used a deep 1 1/2 quart dish. I was far more fond of the crunchy corn flake topping than I was of the mushy corn flake bottom. The middle was nice and custard like, but the bottom was a little too much like corn flakes that had sat in milk too long. The shallow 7x11 inch dish I used on the second try worked out much better and had a lot more of the delicious crunchy part. Both versions were warm and very soothing for a fall breakfast. This recipe is easy to cut in half as well, if you happen to be home alone at breakfast time. Sounds so good I might make another one tomorrow morning...

Friday, October 11, 2013

Salted Burnt Caramel Custards

I was so thankful for the weather last week. The leaves hung on the trees and we had some beautiful warm days. Although I had expected to make a sweeping comeback to this site, I just couldn't resist getting out and hiking with the dogs while it lasted. After spending the summer away, the trails near our home felt new again. Our dogs know the trails so well, we walk in different areas at different times of the year, but they catch on quick and always know where to turn. It's funny because David and I don't walk in the same places, or we will do the same trails in the opposite direction. It was kind of fun for the first few days to just let the dogs lead me, to see what sorts of new places they had been exploring while I was gone. We call these kinds of walks "dog's choice".  Everything has changed today it has alternated between snow and rain all day. The dogs had been begging to go for their walk, so we geared up while it was snowing, but just as we headed out the door it had turned back to rain, sideways rain. Ok boys, let's go it's dogs choice! They looked at each other and then ran back to the door. I was half tempted (actually, very tempted) to let them back in. We trudged up the hill to the ridge and across to the first trail that would either continue on the ridge, down into the valley, or back to the road (the quickest route home). I didn't have to say anything, "dog's choice" was clear, we headed home fast. I put a fire in the woodstove to keep us all warm. The dogs are now all sprawled out and snoring.  There was nothing productive about our day, but sometimes those are the best days of all.
These custards are from this months Bon Appetit magazine. I usually don't have the best luck with caramel, so I was amazed how easy these were and how great they turned out. I did change up the directions a bit from the original recipe. I get a little nervous working with hot, molten sugar, so I like to have things ready to go. I hope this method will make things easier for you too. This recipe makes 8 six ounce portions, which is quite a lot, make sure you have some friends nearby to share this one with.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Maple Snaps

This has been the strangest fall. Winter came early, I was scrambling to put my winter tires on, but then it warmed up again. We have already had a couple of decent snowfalls, then everything melted. Yesterday I noticed that most of the trees still had their bright yellow leaves. This morning when I woke up to let the dogs out one large birch tree had shed all its leaves overnight. A stiff breeze was blowing and the others were losing them quickly, but that one poor tree didn't have a single leaf left. October is probably my second favorite month in Fairbanks (behind March). We originally moved to Fairbanks this time of year. It was a pretty spectacular and late fall, much like this one. I'm still stunned how beautiful the sunrise is this time of year. The sky catches fire each morning. This morning I stood in my driveway in my pajamas unable to look away. Stunning
I also like October because it is officially the time of year you can pull out all those comforting, warm spices. I'm not a fan of pumpkin latte, mainly because I like my coffee to taste like coffee. Don't be fooled I still love those flavors of fall. Gingersnaps are one of those cookies that just feels like October to me, and I love to dunk one or two in my coffee in the morning.  This past weekend I was making a batch of gingersnaps and I got to thinking about what would happen if I swapped out maple syrup for the molasses.  Actually, I wonder this every time I make them. I knew it would take a little more than just maple syrup to get them to taste like maple, also I didn't want to mask the flavor of the maple with a lot of spice. The molasses in gingersnaps can take it, but maple syrup isn't quite so bold. So I adapted my favorite gingersnap recipe and turned them into maple snaps. This recipe does call for both maple sugar and maple extract. I know these can be hard to find in some places, I order mine online from King Arthur Flour. You could certainly make the recipe without them, but the maple flavor won't be as intense. Another tip for better maple flavor is to use Grade B maple syrup. You could also make your own maple extract by cooking down maple syrup. Even if you don't get quite a strong enough maple flavor, these are still the perfect cookie to enjoy with a cup of coffee on a beautiful fall morning.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Double Chocolate Muffins

I have to tell you that I have no need for any more cookbooks in my life. My shelves are full. When people come to my house their jaws fall open when they realize every book on the shelf in the living room is a cookbook. Now here's the bad part...I still WANT more. It is so hard this time of year because there are always new ones coming out for the holidays. If I don't keep things in check they start piling up on coffee tables and the end tables in the bedroom. Soon I am trying to find nooks and crannies to stuff them. I have come to the point that I even have to be selective in the free ones that publishers send. Now, the rule is that every time one comes in another must go out. I wish I could say that this process was really hard, but the truth is I end up with so many cookbooks that never get used. Either I get lured in by the pretty pictures and the recipes just aren't practical, or even worse... the recipes don't work. I can't believe how many seemingly delicious duds there are out there. Lately, I have been trying to make one or two recipes from a cookbook before I actually purchase it. It's pretty easy these days, especially with the "look inside" option on Amazon. 
So, last weekend I decided to make the Cinnamon Roll Scones from "One Bowl Baking". I had scribbled the recipe down quickly and couldn't read if it was 1/4 or 3/4 teaspoon of baking soda. So, I asked David to look it up for me. Of course I didn't tell him what I was making. As he scrolled through the recipes in the preview he came to the Double Chocolate muffins and got very excited. I had to  break the news that I wasn't making Double Chocolate muffins. So, I promised I would make them this weekend and I did. After making two recipes from this book I am totally sold. These muffins were a hit. Now the only question is which cookbook goes?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Cinnamon Roll Scones

I'm finishing up my final week working in Denali. I'll miss my evening walks in the National Park and being surrounded by such breathtaking beauty every day. On the flip side I'll be happy to have my own kitchen and regular internet again. It's been hard being so disconnected from this site all summer. It seems to happen every year though. Things just get so busy in the summer. It's always a little disappointing when fresh, local food is so abundant and then not be able to share.
I wasn't really sure how this summer would work out and where I would find myself in the fall. There haven't been too many job opportunities this summer, so I am glad I took this seasonal position. I'm still trying to figure out what's next. I haven't given up on the idea of working in non-profit conservation, but the opportunities have been so few. I'd love to find something that combines my love of nature, food, and art. I'm happiest in a position when I am creating something new and have the ability to be creative. I just thought I would let you all know that I am looking again, so if you have any leads...
In the meantime I hope to be puttering around this site a bit more. It feels like every time I go away, a scone recipe is the easiest way to return. One of my co-workers this summer made a cup of tea at 2:00 in the afternoon; she called it her restart for the day. Scones are my blog restart. This one has been years in the making. Ever since I started making scones I wanted to find a way to combine my favorite breakfast treat with David's (cinnamon roll). I've tweaked and played with recipes, even posted a few of them here. None came close enough to give them the name "cinnamon roll scone". The hardest part is rolling or folding scone dough. Scones are not really meant to be rolled out, so I won’t tell you that it is easy, but my technique has much improved and an offset spatula does wonders for the process. If you are easily frustrated by a crumbly dough, you might want to skip this one. If you have a little patience for an absolutely amazing end result, you will be happy you gave this one a try.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Rhubarb Jam with Fresh Ginger and Lime

Where does the time go? I can't believe it is the end of July already. It's not just the summer that is flying by though, the years are too. A major birthday passed this week, one of those that ends in zero. The passing of my birthday each year always feels like summer is quickly coming to a close. As a kid I always did my fall school shopping right after I got my birthday money and then the next major event was the new school year. Working a seasonal job makes things feel the same way. The only difference in my life now is that I really look forward to end of summer berry picking and canning. The blueberries are about a week away from being ripe and I can hardly wait. 
A few weeks ago we had a little late night canning session in our kitchen at work. I think I may be spoiled for canning forever though. Being able to make jam in a kitchen with an endless supply of huge pots and plenty of counter space is really a treat. Almost as much of a treat as the finished product. Not to mention our chef was baking biscuits for breakfast the next morning. Can you say fresh rhubarb jam on warm biscuits? Yup, that's what happened.  I've been loving anything with lime and ginger these days. Ever since I tried this raspberry jam from Chez Pim last year I can't get enough of that fresh ginger taste in my jam. I loved that the ginger and lime in this version did not kill the taste of the rhubarb, but instead enhanced it. This does have quite a ginger kick, so if you aren't a huge fan of ginger, you might want to dial things back a bit.  I know that most of you are probably at the end of your rhubarb season, so I apologize that you will need to save this one until next year. We are lucky in Alaska, my rhubarb will keep growing until I pick the last of it just before the first frost. 

Friday, May 31, 2013

French Potato Salad with Mustard and Fresh Herbs

It’s that time of year again. Bring on the picnics and BBQ’s. I’ve been living a bit of a double life these days. I spend my weekdays working near (very near, literally a few hundred feet) Denali National Park.  While I am here I have reverted to my single girl ways. Food is as simple as I can make it. Sometimes and avocado scooped out with tortilla chips is my lunch.  Evenings are all about checking out all the great hiking trails in the area followed by a beer and an appetizer at one of the local watering holes.
Weekends return me to my “regularly scheduled life”.  There’s dog walking and brushing followed by proper home cooked meals and dishwashing.  As funny as it sounds this schedule has brought a great deal of balance to my life. I have really missed getting outdoors and hiking. As much as I love cooking, it is definitely more of a creative pursuit, not a domestic one for me.  The recipe creation and the eating part are great, but the cleaning up part I'm not so fond of. So, I am always thankful when we get invited to a potluck. It means only one dish to make and most of the time far less dishes than a regular dinner.
When David mentioned that we had been invited to a BBQ this past weekend I asked what he thought I should make. He suggested potato salad.  I balked at the idea saying that certainly someone else would bring potato salad to a BBQ.  David insisted, his reasoning was that if I brought potato salad we would be certain there would be some.  Obviously, someone really wanted potato salad. For the last few years I have been making the same Lemony Potato Salad with chives. I really like the lightness of it, but I usually make my own mayonnaise with olive oil for that salad. Store bought mayonnaise makes potato salad too heavy in my opinion. Even though homemade mayonnaise is the easiest thing in the world to make, I was feeling exceptionally lazy last weekend. I wanted something similar to my old stand by, but without the mayonnaise. This one with mustard and Dijon mustard was a perfect fit. Oh, and David was right, nobody else brought potato salad and we would have gone without if I hadn't made this one.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Banana, Peanut Butter, and Chocolate Chip Muffins

I know things have been really quiet around here lately, too quiet. I have a confession to make. I have moved. Well...sort of. I have spent the better part of the last four months trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up, at this point I might as well say "if I grow up". I knew I didn't want to go back to "professional" life. The idea of spending the rest of my working life in a position where I only get two weeks off a year, and being totally stressed out about my job those whole two weeks was definitely something I was not eager to return to. I thought that I could possibly make this space earn enough income that I wouldn't have to go back to work. I'll let you in on a little secret, it takes some seriously hard work to make a living as a food blogger. I'm happy to be at a place where this space provides a nice supplemental income, and I think if I had another six months to work on it, I may just have made it. I thought about moving to Maine, I applied for another Executive Director job here in Alaska. Neither felt "right". Something was calling to me, something I couldn't really explain. I really wanted to return to Denali National Park. I had worked here years ago, and the place has always pulled at my heartstrings. So, I decided to take a seasonal position with a non-profit right outside the park. I'm hoping that it will possibly lead to something more permanent. Right now I am just enjoying testing the waters. I'm still only a two hour drive from Fairbanks, so I am sure I'll be spending some weekends in our Fairbanks home. I'm also looking forward to doing some exploring on this end of the park. The last time I worked in Denali I was 90 miles west of here. Right now, I am just settling in. It's still the off season, so no running water or real kitchen facilities are available right now. Once I get back in the swing of things I hope to post more often.
I made these muffins on a trip back to Fairbanks last weekend. When I got home there some pretty brown bananas sitting on the counter. I would normally just make my standard banana bread, but because I was leaving and  it would be up to David to eat it after I left, I decided that I would have to make something with chocolate in it. If I were to make these muffins again, I probably would make them right in the pan, rather than use cupcake papers that you see in the photos. They were really good, but they really stuck to the paper. You can also spray the paper if you really want to use them. The thing I liked about these is despite the additions of peanut butter and chocolate, they weren't overly sweet. They still felt like a good choice for breakfast.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Ginger Syrup

Last year this time I was totally in love with Masala Chai. I was drinking it three times a day. I loved the fresh, spicy ginger flavor of the drink. I still drink it often, but the novelty has worn off and now it's only a few times a week. This year I have a new spicy, gingery love. It comes in the form of a cold beverage this time. I had always heard how much better homemade ginger ale was than the store bought stuff. I guess I never took much interest as I was never a huge fan of store bought ginger ale. Sure, if you have an upset stomach, a can of ginger ale is nice. I have always found that ginger ale comes in two forms; weak ginger flavor and very sweet, or totally overpowering ginger flavor. That is the beauty of making your own homemade ginger syrup. You decide how strong/sweet the flavor will be. The recipe below is just a starting point. If you like it more sweet, add more sugar. Super Spicy? More ginger.
The syrup can also be used for cocktails, hot tea, or even baked goods. I love the flavor of fresh ginger in baked goods and hope to try adapting a few recipes for ginger syrup soon.
Are you a fan of ginger ale? Do you like it super spicy, or are you into the classic Vernor's version? What are your favorite gingery cocktails?

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