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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Black Cat - Ashland, Wisconsin

If you have been hanging around here for a while you know I like scones. If you have been paying attention you know that this is the scone I have been trying to re-create...
The Black Cat was "the" place for coffee when I was in college. It was the reason I had to work two jobs. Although I never planned it that way, two of the three places I lived in Ashland were less than a block away from this location. It has been at least 5 years since I have had a Black Cat scone and so this was a big deal for me. I was thrilled to find they had my absolute favorite, raspberry. I was hesitant as I already knew this was not going to be the same scone I remembered, because they never used to be covered with sugar. Inside it was still the same scone that I used to love, but here's the thing. I don't know how to say this, but in the years of trying to perfect the Black Cat scone, mine are now better. So, I no longer need to sit and pine away for the Black Cat days as I can make scones even better than the Black Cat in my own kitchen. If you happen to be passing through Ashland, Wisconsin I still recommend you stop in for a coffee and a scone, because I still think they are pretty darn good!
 The Black Cat looks exactly how I remember it, but they have done a wonderful job renovating the CO-OP since I was last there.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Minneapolis Farmers Market

First of all I was greeted by a giant chicken...
Look at all these beautiful flowers...
and veggies...
The best part was all these lovely baked goods. Of course I just looked, because I am good and don't eat things like this, right?
*blushes* Where did that photo come from?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Banana Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting

Today I am headed to a place that I still on occasion call "home". Yes, my cute little cabin in Fairbanks with Brody, Arrluk, and David is definitely more home than the place where I grew up. It is hard not to slip and say, "I am going home". Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula holds a very special place in my heart. Not only is it the place where I grew up, but I still truly believe it is one of the most beautiful places in the world.
It has been 2 1/2 years since I have visited "The Keweenaw" and six since I last lived there. Time flies by so quickly and although time moves so slowly when you are there it seems to move quickly once you move away. Since I was last "home" there have been marriages, divorces, births, and deaths. This Banana Cake recipe is from my friend Miranda who has both been married and had a baby since I was living there. I was living in Denali National Park when I originally requested the recipe and she kindly shared so our baker at the lodge could make it for my birthday. Miranda makes it with Cream Cheese frosting, but I have found over the years that I also enjoy it with Peanut Butter frosting, so I am providing Miranda's recipe for frosting, but you can also find the peanut butter frosting here.  They are both delicious and it really is just a matter of taste which you prefer.
I hope to share some of the highlights of the Keweenaw with you in the next week or so. I hope to find some pasties and thimbleberry jam. Never heard of them? Stay tuned...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Spicy Carrot Spelt Muffins

Two years ago I arrived at the farmers market 1/2 hour before opening hoping to get one of the first bags of carrots for the season. Turns out there were at least a dozen people in line ahead of me and within five minutes another dozen were in line behind me. Just before they rang the market bell to signify sales could begin for the day a women stopped to ask me what we were waiting for and when I told her carrots she looked like she might punch me. "Really", she said, "Why is it you people always have to be so rude to tourists"? I felt bad, she obviously wasn't having a good Fairbanks experience, but I wasn't lying. Fairbanks carrots have got to be some of the best anywhere, and everyone here knows it. I know children that will choose a Fairbanks carrot over candy, they are that sweet. They say the reason is that the ground is so cold, it causes all the vegetables to produce more sugar. The carrots seem to be the sweetest of all.
To me a good spicy muffins are meant for fall. The cool rainy weather a few weeks ago convinced me that spicy muffins can be a good spring treat as well. I just can't wait to make them again this fall when the "candy carrots" arrive.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Rustic Rhubarb and Rose Petal Tarts

Yes these look challenging, Yes they have a lot of steps, Yes they are delicious! Really, they are not that hard to make. The whole time I was making them I called them my Supermodels. Really, they are beautiful, they didn't need much make-up, and they photograph so well (no bad sides). As challenging as they look you really can't screw them up. They are supposed to be rustic, so really the more screwed up the more beautiful they are (no offense to Supermodels).
The best part is that you can make them ahead of time and then just take them out of the freezer as you need them, a couple for dessert, and then some more for breakfast...
The original recipe calls for dried hibiscus flowers, which believe it or not I actually have in my kitchen (I won them in some giveaway a year ago). Because I could not resist taking advantage of the bounty of the season I used fresh rose petals instead. If you decide to go with hibiscus flowers they will need to be removed after cooking as they will not cook down like the rose petals. If you do decide to go with rose petals, make sure to use organic(or wild ones from your yard like I did), or those specifically made for culinary purposes as the regular flower shop ones are full of nasty chemicals.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Chipotle Baked Beans

At the beginning of the year I made some food resolutions. I really wanted to expand not only my palate, but also my cooking abilities. I not only have vowed to eat a greater variety of grains, but I really wanted to start cooking with dried beans more often. Late last year I purchased several bags of beans from Rancho Gordo and had not really gone beyond photographing them. A few weeks ago I decided to start small and make baked beans for a BBQ potluck at work. This recipe was looking really good as I loved the idea of chipotle, but when I saw that they called for Rancho Gordo cranberry beans (don't worry you can also use Great Northern white beans as well) I knew they were the ones. This time of year I can't get enough BBQ, corn on the cob, cole slaw, and baked beans. These will be on our table again soon.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Whole Grain Popovers

Don't say I didn't warn you...there are going to be a lot of recipes coming up from Kim Boyce's new cookbook "Good to the Grain". It has been a while since I have loved a cookbook as much as this one. That is saying a lot considering what a sucker I am for each new one that comes out. At first I was a little nervous about sourcing all the ingredients, but my fears were eased after reading Kim's introduction where she encourages experimentation and swapping out one whole grain flour for another. Then a trip to the Bob's Red Mill section of the grocery store made me realize how many we actually did have available here in Fairbanks, I didn't really have to do too much adapting of the recipes.
The first thing I had to make was the popovers. Was it really possible to have them "pop" with whole grain flour? The answer is yes, more than possible. These were the highest popovers I have seen ever come out of our oven. I think I should have baked them a little longer however as they collapsed pretty quickly. They were still really good and the added grains gave then a depth you don't normally get in a popover.
So, if you decide to make these, feel free to swap out the whole grain flours for the ones you have, or even use all whole wheat flour. I halved the original recipe as there is no way we could eat 20 popovers.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Banana Pudding with Vanilla Wafer Crumble

I purchased DamnGoodSweet by David Guas around Mardi Gras time. I had good intentions of making a King Cake and this book was getting really good reviews. David shares some great stories about growing up in New Orleans and I really enjoyed "reading" this cookbook. New Orleans has never been high on my places to visit, but the book has definitely made me add it to my list. The problem is that I never made the King Cake, Red Velvet Cake, Buttermilk Beignets, or the Coconut Cream Pie. Why? Because I made the Banana Pudding first and now every time I open the book I want Banana Pudding.
Somehow I managed to get through an entire Midwestern childhood without ever being exposed to Banana Pudding from a box with a layer of Nilla Wafers and Cool Whip topping. Thank goodness there were some Midwestern culinary disasters I was spared. It wasn't until college that I first tasted it and I must say I wasn't too impressed. I hesitated to even make the topping for this recipe as I thought the addition of sugar to Nilla Wafers would make them just too DamnSweet. Turns out that is my favorite part of the whole thing, it was DamnGoodSweet after all!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Risotto Style Pasta with Sausage and Mushrooms

This past winter I made Mark Bittman's Pasta with Chicken and Mushrooms, Risotto Style. I swore after I made it that I would never make plain pasta boiled in water again. The flavor of that dish was intense and incredible, each bite even if only pasta was filled with flavor and the way the sauce stuck to every bit of the dish was wonderful. Of course, I never made pasta this way again. Yes, this technique does take a little more time than just straight up boiling, but the results are worth it.
Then, this spring I found Jamie Oliver's recipe for Pork Sausage Pasta I knew it needed to be made Risotto Style and that is exactly what I did. This recipe is an inspiration from both sources. The sausage makes this dish incredibly rich. If you like it extra spicy use a Hot Italian Sausage.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Rose Petals

I have always loved wildflowers. I'm not the kind of person who swoons over a bouquet of flower shop roses, but I love photographing wildflowers. This time of year, especially with the lovely filtered  light we had the last couple of weeks (some sarcasm there as the wildfires are burning early this year) the flowers look especially bright. Soon, I will share some of the recipes I made with this ingredient, but today I just wanted to share a little beauty of the season.
Yes, I consider rose petals to be an ingredient. They really are quite versatile and can be used in their many different forms. I have used dried petals in ice cream and as a garnish. Last year I made rose water which adds rose flavor to a variety of dishes and cocktails. Many times I just add the fresh rose petals to compotes and jellies  as they cook down to nothing and add just the slightest hint of rose scent.  This time of year when the Roses and Rhubarb are the first fruits of the season I like to blend them together in tarts and muffins.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Best Brownies?

You will all be happy to know that I have taken a break from finding the perfect chocolate chip cookie for a while. I'm pretty happy with my two favorites for now, although I do admit I have my eye on Kim Boyce's whole wheat version. Unfortunately, I have now ventured over to the brownie world. This is a very slippery slope for me. Brownies are a dangerous thing, I can empty an 8x8 pan in less than 48 hours if it is the right brownie. There are a lot of them out there. Here's the thing, I don't really have a good all occasion brownie. I am talking about a simple every day kind of brownie (not that I need a brownie every day). The hard part of this search is that there are a million "Best Brownies" out there. Not only best, but Best Ever Brownies and then of course there are Kate's Brownies, Suzanne's Best Brownies and these I made recently were Robert's Best Brownies from David Leibovitz's new book Ready for Dessert. I thought that I too would find these to be the Best Brownies as David's Dulce de Leche Brownies are my all time favorite. They unfortunately were not "Nicole's Best Brownies". Don't get me wrong, they are good and I know that they could be a best brownie for many others.
So I am going to reach out to all of you to recommend a perfect brownie. To help you all out here is what I have learned so far...Nicole's Best Brownie is chewy, it doesn't have frosting, it is not at all dry in texture, and the recipe needs to have cocoa powder and melted chocolate.
Also, I recently made the Cakewalk brownies and was not a fan...too greasy and gritty even after the recommended sitting for two day. I do love the Baked brownie, but it is too intense for an everyday brownie. I'm leaning towards Alice Medrich's Best Cocoa Brownies next, but I am curious what you all have to say.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Lemon Crumb Squares

I love Meyer lemons and I can't get enough of my regular lemon bars. Lately, I have been having cravings for normal old lemons. That super charged lemon flavor just sings out summer to me. I originally found this recipe over the winter (March is winter in Fairbanks) and I thought I would make them with Meyer Lemons. I kept putting it off as a cold lemon bar just doesn't sound as good in the winter month. Then the temperatures climbed up early this spring and I started looking for something cool to bring to a potluck. I have to say that I am not sure these are the best thing for a standing around kind of treat. They are cool and refreshing with a nice lemon zing. They are also super crumbly, I recommend eating them on a plate with a fork unless you have a cute pup to clean up your mess.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Down in the Dumpster

 I was washing dishes a couple of weeks ago with all the kitchen windows open. I kept hearing this fluttering sound and was wondering what the dogs might be up to. It was a super hot day and every time I looked out the window they were just laying there in the cool spot in the flower bed on the side of the house. I kept hearing the fluttering and then all of a sudden I panicked. I thought one of them had caught a bird. I ran to the back door to see what exactly was going on when I saw a Robin fly in and land on Brody's side. She picked and pulled and filled her beak with his soft and downy white fur until he lifted his head and made a half-hearted attempt to snap at her. All I could think is those baby birds are going to have one very soft nest.
We have been watching another nest of Robins on the loading dock at work the last couple of  weeks. They chose to make their nest in a very unfortunate place above the dumpster. Luckily there have been many eyes keeping watch over those babies the last few days as they have made their way from the nest. As we suspected the one in the photo above landed in the dumpster today and two co-workers jumped in to save him before the big truck showed up to empty the dumpsters.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Carrot Ginger Dressing

The first time I ever had sushi I was so excited to try something new. I went into it totally open minded and wasn't really sure what to expect. Honestly, I wasn't that impressed. It wasn't that the place I went wasn't good, I just felt sort of indifferent to the whole experience. Then a month later I found myself craving it. How strange, I have never felt this way about any other food I have eaten in my adult life. Now, I love sushi and will never pass up a chance to stop at a good sushi place.
If you have ever been to a Japanese restaurant, I can almost guarantee you have had a dressing similar to this one. I always take the salad for granted when I am at a Japanese restaurant. I remember really enjoying it the first time I had it, but now it always feels like something you need to get through to get to the sushi. On its own with no anticipation of sushi to come, this dressing really shines. I really regret not searching out a recipe sooner. It's a great way to add a little something to a simple noodle bowl dinner. This recipe makes a whole lot, but keep in mind that it is more of a topping than a dressing. You will want to ladle it on thick. Most places just serve it over iceberg lettuce. I used mixed greens and added a little red onion and toasted sunflower seeds. This would make a great lunch to bring to work.

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