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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs

I have never thought of deviled eggs as sexy. A little more girl next door. It turns out that when you dress them up, they are hot. Isn't that how it always turns out in the movies, dress up the girl next door and she becomes a total babe? Well, these deviled eggs are the girl next door all dressed up for a night in New York City. I thought that adding smoked salmon would make them more Alaskan, but was I ever wrong. These girls were ready for a night on the town. I had so much fun with them that I made them twice this week. The first time I didn't get a chance to photograph them, which was probably for the better as I had originally placed the caper and red onion garnish on top of the eggs which made them look like they had little eyeballs staring up at you. Also, the garnish had a tendency to fall off. This time I placed the onions and capers in the egg cavity before piping in the yolk mixture. Either way, they taste amazing.
I wanted to wish you all a Happy New Year before the clock strikes midnight on the East Coast. We still have a few hours before we even head over to the neighbors house to celebrate. Our eggs will definitely be more dressed up than we are, but that is the way things are here in Fairbanks. Wishing you all a safe an Happy New Year's Eve wherever you are!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Banana Barley Flour Muffins

It is hard after this past weekend not to appreciate local ingredients. Each Christmas Eve since we have lived here, we have gathered with our neighbors to celebrate. Each person brings enough food to feed all 20 people in the room. Everyone brings a bit of where they came from. Much of the food is either grown or raised right here within a few miles of our house. Yes, people are raising turkeys right here in Fairbanks. I don't know why this always amazes me, people moved here to homestead.  I look forward to the meal all year. I can honestly say there is no meal in any restaurant that I would trade for this one.
It also makes me appreciate the abundance we have here. I spend most of my year complaining about the lack of good food. The truth of the matter is if you can't find good food in Fairbanks, you aren't looking in the right places (hint: if you have to leave a tip, you are in the wrong place). Everyone I know is an amazing cook, sometimes I feel silly that I am the one with the food blog. There is so much to learn.
This morning I was ready to move past the crunching of candy canes and make something a little more simple. I didn't want to get out the food processor or the stand mixer. Just me a bowl, a wooden spoon, and some local ingredients. I was ready to start learning about barley flour. We now have locally grown and milled barley flour here in Alaska. I have never baked with barley flour before and I could hardly wait to give it a try. Whole grain flours get a bad rap for creating dense and dry baked goods. Barley flour isn't like that at all, in fact it turns out a lighter product than all-purpose flour. It is almost comparable to cake flour, with a slightly nutty taste. These muffins were light and moist and best of all quick and easy to make. Although I love most baked goods straight out of the oven, I felt these were even better after they sat for a while. This makes them great for a brunch buffet. I love that they contain local honey and barley flour. This is a good place to start if you are like me and have never tried barley flour before. You see, we all have a lot to learn!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Sticky Gingerbread Cake

This recipe is another that I have been wanting to post for a really long time. Not necessarily this recipe, but a recipe for Gingerbread Cake. It has taken me about three years to find the perfect one. For the last two winters I have probably baked at least a dozen gingerbread recipes. Many were good, but none of them "the" gingerbread cake. It had to be spicy, and slightly sticky. This was the kind of cake you eat with a fork, one that holds a nice mound of whip cream. Finally, it had to resemble meatloaf! Ok, don't run away yet. It took me three years to find this recipe, trust me it is a good one, with a good story.
Many years ago my Mom and I went out to eat at a restaurant back home in Michigan. It was a place known for having a wide selection of really good desserts. I don't remember much about the dinner menu, but I do remember their grasshopper and mud pies. I believe it was during the summer when my Mom decided to order warm gingerbread cake with whip cream topping for dessert. I thought it was an odd offering for the summer and wondered how much they were selling during that time of year. Would it even be fresh? The waitress promptly brought my Mom her dessert. It was drowning in whip cream. Then my Mom took a bite and her face turned to a very confused expression. "I think this might be meatloaf", she said. It was the "this might be" part of the sentence that threw me off and I didn't totally believe it. I mean, how could it be meatloaf? Either it is gingerbread, or it is meatloaf, how could it "might be" meatloaf? My mom encouraged me to take a bite, but if it really was meatloaf smothered in whip cream, well I didn't want any part of it. So, we sat and stared at it for a while. The whip cream began to melt, finally I agreed to smell it. One whiff and there was no question that my Mom had been served meatloaf with whip cream for dessert. The waitress was really embarrassed when we told her she served up meatloaf for dessert. Turns out the restaurant kept the meatloaf and the gingerbread cut in similar sized cubes right next to each other in the freezer. She just happened to grab the wrong one, placed it in the microwave and served it up as dessert. So, now anytime someone mentions meatloaf, we have to ask if it was served with whip cream. I don't really remember what happened after the waitress took the meatloaf away. I do know we laughed until we had tears in our eyes, but I don't remember actually ever eating the gingerbread.  So, I went in search of a recipe for what that gingerbread should have been like had it actually been gingerbread. This one from Nigella Lawson is exactly what I imagined warm gingerbread cake with whip cream should taste like...when it is not meatloaf!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Candy Cane Biscotti

I found this recipe the same year I started this blog. That was over three years ago. I have had this on my list of things to make every year and somehow it always gets pushed to the end of the list and finally bumped off. I have never made biscotti before and I got the impression that it was going to be challenging. I guess I never really looked at the recipe very closely because I was surprised about two things. The first is that they are really easy to make, and second these ones are really tiny compared to normal biscotti. They are super cute and pack up nicely on a cookie platter. They are the perfect thing to dunk in a cup of hot cocoa. The original recipe leaves them a little chewier. I prefer my biscotti dry and hard (good for dunking), so I left them in the oven a little longer. Although the recipe calls for finely processed candy canes, I recommend you leave some medium size chunks. This will give your biscotti the nice bursts of color in the actual cookie. If you process the candy canes too much, they will just melt away. They will still taste good though!
I'm so glad I finally made them this year and am sure they will now make it on the annual Christmas cookie list.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Coconut Egg Nog (Non-Dairy)

When I am buying a new cookbook I usually look through the index to see what kind of ingredients the author is using. I do this for many reasons, first of all if I see too many hard to source or worse ingredients I don't recognize I will often skip it. It's not that I am not adventurous, but I while back I grew weary of trying to find specialty ingredients in Fairbanks. I have lived here long enough to know what's available and what is easy to find by mail order, even then I usually only order from places that I can get several things at once. I recently read an interview with Melissa Clark about her new cookbook and one of the things that convinced me to check it out was the fact that she said something to the effect that she wanted this book to be accessible to everyone, even someone buying their food from a basic chain grocery store. That describes me for sure. Although I doubt I'll be finding calamari in Fred Meyer in February, for the most part this book does ring true to that sentiment.
There is another reason I scan the index looking at ingredients. It is to see if the author and I have similar tastes. There are some foods that people either love or hate and I am aware that coconut is one of them. I personally am a coconut lover. When I say that there were no less than seven recipes with coconut in Melissa Clark's new cookbook there was no longer any doubt this was a cookbook I had to have. I played around quite a bit with the technique on this recipe. I wanted an eggnog that had some texture and was served cold, not room temperature as in the original.  If you are used to store bought egg nog, this one is going to be pretty light. It reminds me of a coconut drink I once had in Mexico with rum. Please feel free to adapt this with your favorite kind of alcohol, or none at all if that's what you like. Also, please note this recipe does contain raw eggs, so it's a good idea to know where your eggs are coming from. You can also use pasteurized eggs if you prefer. Happy Holidays and Cheers!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Vanilla Bean Tapioca Pudding

I had not anticipated sharing a recipe for tapioca pudding this holiday season. Last week I stopped by the Fred Meyer store on the west end of town. If you live in Fairbanks you know that store has been a remodeling nightmare for months. Even though I live on the east end of town I often visited the west end store as they seem to have a better selection of products. In the last year I have only stopped in a couple of times because of the disaster the store has been. Last weekend I was in that part of town with 30 minutes to burn and my only task was to find an ATM machine. Since my bank isn't in that part of town, I decided to just run into Fred Meyer to check out the selection now that the remodel is near completion. I also figured I could just use the cash back option at the checkout, rather than pay the ATM fees. Well, this didn't end up being such a good deal as I ended up spending over $50 on items that weren't even on my grocery list. One of those items was a bag of small pearl tapioca. I love homemade pudding and started wondering why I have never made my own tapioca pudding. The recipe on the package seemed pretty easy, and turns out it really is super simple. I love the flecks of vanilla bean with the tapioca. You can also dress this pudding up with chopped nuts or dried fruit, maybe add some cinnamon or nutmeg for the holiday season. I prefer mine simple, and I actually like it best served warm or at room temperature. I recommend doubling the recipe as it seemed to disappear pretty quickly at our house.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sparkling Cranberry Cookies

I'm posting a little early this week as I am off to Anchorage for work this week. I have a busy schedule, but I am hoping to sneak in a couple of hours late Thursday afternoon for a little shopping. I purposely scheduled all my meetings downtown and didn't rent a car so I would be forced to walk. I prefer trips without a car actually, I think you see a lot more. When you have a rental car you increase your range and it feels like you spend all your time driving, at least I do anyway. I always want to try and see it all! In addition walking is really good for you, especially during the season of the holiday cookie. I know, more cookies....but these ones are actually somewhat good for you. Ok, maybe good for you is pushing it. I have really been enjoying the flavor of whole-wheat flour lately. I have gradually been incorporating it into more and more foods that I make and now I almost find baked goods made with all-purpose flour a little bit bland. I love the extra flavor the whole wheat flour adds. So, these cookies do come with a bit of a warning...if you are used to some of my usual recipes these might taste a little bit "healthy" to you. The process for making them is very similar to making scones which is probably why I like them so much. I actually thought about calling them itty bitty scone cookies, but that is just a little too cute.
These little cookies would be great packaged up as a holiday gift or hostess treat, a great little bite with a morning cup of coffee. Yes, you can have cookies for breakfast.
I simplified this recipe from the original making the entire dough in the food processor, I just caution you not to go crazy and over mix the dough. This method really cuts down on the number of dishes you use, but if you prefer you can remove the flour and cranberry mixture from the food processor and make the rest of the dough by hand to avoid over mixing. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Candy Cane Snowball Cookies

I actually made these cookies last week, right after Thanksgiving. I couldn't wait to start my holiday baking. Yet, I wanted to give you all some time to enjoy your turkey and give thanks before I moved into holiday baking mode here in this space. It just isn't Christmas to me, unless I have made a dozen different types of cookies during the month of December. I actually started collecting recipes with candy canes back in July.
In their nut form, I have always called these cookies Mexican Wedding Cookies. Last week, Not So Humble Pie posted Peppermint Tea Cookies. What a great idea, and I wondered if I could just adapt my recipe that I already love? Somewhere in the middle of my research I found that another name for these cookies is snowball. Candy Cane Snowballs sounded quite festive. This is another one of those holiday recipes that would be great for a cookie exchange or bakesale. I made them quite large as I didn't have any plans for them, but you could easily make them half the size (baking time will be shorter) and get quite a few more cookies out of each batch. I'm not sure they will replace Mexican Wedding cookies, but they would be a great addition to them on a holiday cookie plate. Also great for those who love delicate tea cookies, but can't have nuts in their diet.
This recipe calls for chopping candy canes in a food processor and then sifting out the powder from the candy cane chunks. Make sure you reserve the powder to sprinkle on top of the cookies. In the past I have purposely made a batch of candy cane powder to stir into hot chocolate during the holiday season. It also makes a great gift layered in a canning jar with hot chocolate. This recipe will leave you with at least 1/2 cup extra candy cane powder. I know you can find other great uses for it during the holidays.

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