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Sunday, December 30, 2012

12 Favorites for 2012

I have compiled a list of 12 favorite recipes from 2012, six of yours and six of mine. Your favorites were calculated by the top page views for recipes posted this year. All I have to say is that you all like cupcakes, and butter cookies!  My favorites were calculated by the number of times I made the recipe after I posted it. Many of the recipes I post here are made a dozen times or more before I actually photograph them and post them here, if I continue to make them after they have been posted on the blog, you know they are a winner.
Thanks for sticking with me in 2012. It was a long, hard year. Sometimes I wasn't sure I would be able to stick with this site, but I'm sure glad I did. Despite my lack of posting, 2012 was the most visited year I have had yet on this site. This month was off the charts. Thanks for all your kind words and encouragement on this crazy journey. Happy New Year!

Your Favorites

My Favorites

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Roasted Green Beans

Roasted green beans, really? I want to thunk myself in the forehead. Why had I never thought of this before? Please tell me I'm not the only one. We practically live on roasted root vegetables in the fall when Farmer's Market is overflowing with them. I've even roasted radishes for goodness sake! 
Ever since Megan posted about roasted green beans over on her blog, I haven't been able to get enough of them. Part of the problem is that I have never really been all that crazy about green beans. I don't dislike them, but I just don't find them all that exciting. That is until I discovered roasting them. I have made roasted green beans at least a dozen times in the last month, and never the same way twice. The recipe below is just to get you started. There is quite a bit of flexibility with how you serve them. They are quite nice served simply with a big meal, but you can also dress them up as well. Today, I ate them with dried cranberries and toasted almonds, drizzled with a little balsamic vinaigrette, and sprinkled with alder smoked sea salt. I have also dusted them with onion powder, or spicy seasoning salt. They were also great roasted with thinly sliced shallots. I have some plans for a batch with red peppers and diced potatoes. If you have never thought much of green beans before, these could really change your mind. Also, the oven temperature is pretty forgiving too. I have roasted them in temperatures as low at 350 for an hour, or as high as 450 for 20 minutes, depending on what else is cooking in the oven. Just keep an eye on them, you want them to be brown and crispy, but not burned. Also, initially it is going to look like you have way too many beans. Keep in mind that they really shrivel up when you roast them and it won't seem like nearly as many when you are done. Have you ever roasted green beans? Was it a success? Any great add-ins I should know about?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

It's not true. Santa actually stops in Fairbanks last. According to the official NORAD Santa Tracker, which I have been following for years, Santa's final stop is Fairbanks, Alaska. I'm always amazed that Santa still has room for cookies when he gets to our place. Just to make it easier on him I'll pack a few cookies in a bag this year, that way he can save them for later.
I have been looking at Alice Medrich's Chocolate Espresso Cookie recipe for the last couple of months. I was sure that Santa would love them, but I was also in the mood for some Chocolate Peppermint Bark.  Why not save myself some work and combine them? The results were just what I was hoping for, I hope Santa likes them too! Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Panettone Muffins

Do you know we don't even have our tree up yet? Yes, it is true. It has always been this way with David and I. Our very first Christmas together we got the most gorgeous tree because we bought it at the last minute. We were living in Port Townsend, Washington then. Now, we just go and cut one down on our property. We still don't get one put up until the weekend before Christmas. Now we get some spindly little spruce tree, half the time a pair of loppers is all you need to cut it down. We still make a big production of the whole thing. David gets out the saw and we look around the yard as though we are choosing from the finest Balsam Firs and then he drags it down the hill as thought it is some bulky tree. The truth is I don't think we have had a tree that I couldn't pick up with two fingers. Usually one of the dogs thinks it makes a fine stick and runs around the yard with it. Yet somehow, just like the Charlie Brown tree it looks pretty good once you get the lights and ornaments on it. So that's what we will be doing this weekend. 
What we eat on Christmas day is another story. Menus are discussed weeks in advance and planned out to the final detail, including breakfast. I like to make something fairly easy on Christmas morning so I can sit around and sip my coffee and open all my BIG, EXPENSIVE presents from Santa. I know he will be bringing lots of them and I have to plan enough time to open them all. Right Santa? Ok, maybe not. I still like to relax and drink my coffee anyway. These Panettone muffins are great for that. If you soak the fruit the night before they come together pretty easily in the morning. So you can have plenty of time to open all your Christmas presents.
These muffins are meant to mimic the Italian Sweet Bread with the exception that they are much softer and cake like in texture. I love the slightly floral scent of the Fiori di Sicilia. If you aren't able to find it, or don't want to order online I would recommend adding 1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest and a couple drops of almond extract instead. If you don't have the white sparkling sugar feel free to replace it with Sugar in the Raw found in the baking aisle at the grocery store. Use whatever dried fruits you have on hand, I liked using ones with a variety of color so the muffins look pretty when you tear them open. They go great with a cup of coffee while sitting next to the wood stove on Christmas morning. Happy Holidays everyone!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Fruitcake Bars (Luscious Cherry Brandy Bars)

You all thought I was kidding when I said I would be posting fruitcake this week, didn't you? I personally think that fruitcake gets a really bad rap. Brandy soaked dried fruit with toasted pecans in a spice cake, what's so bad about that? Now, I'm not saying that there aren't a lot of really bad fruitcakes out there. There's a whole competition  for people trying to get rid of their fruitcakes. So, why even call these fruitcake bars? They have a lot of dried cherries and brandy in them. Maybe I should have just called them Luscious Cherry Brandy bars. That sounds much better doesn't it?
How will fruitcake ever get over its bad name if we don't give it a little more credit? So, you are going to have to trust me here. These bars are packed with brandy soaked cherries and toasted pecans, how bad can that be? I'm telling you they are quite lovely and because they are packed with fruit and nuts, you can cut them into little bars and call them "energy bars", or eat them for breakfast if you want to. I certainly won't tell anyone! I should warn you that you might get a bit of a workout making these bars. Since they are mostly fruit and nuts you are going to have to use a little muscle to stir the batter. Again, I promise they are totally worth it.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Eggnog Ice Cream

I once read that Alaskans eat more ice cream per capita than any other state. I'm not really sure why that is. Maybe we need to build up our winter layers to keep warm and ice cream is the best way to do that. I really liked ice cream before I ever moved to Alaska, so maybe Alaska just attracts ice cream lovers. Possibly it is always so cold here that it reminds us of ice cream. Today was the first time since I have lived in Fairbanks that school has been closed due to snowfall. What did I spend the day doing? Shoveling! Well, besides shoveling I made ice cream.
Eggnog ice cream is an interesting concept because eggnog essentially is already ice cream batter. It contains eggs and cream which are the two main components of ice cream. So really you could use just about any eggnog recipe and toss it in your ice cream maker and have eggnog ice cream. I adapted this recipe from The Perfect Scoop because it was the booziest eggnog ice cream I could find. This one will be pretty soft directly from the ice cream maker because the booze doesn't allow it to set up as firmly, but after a few hours in the freezer it will certainly not be hard, but it will hold its shape a lot better.
I wanted to let you know that this is the last eggnog recipe I'll be posting this holiday season. It has been quite a noggy week here and there's only so much eggnog even I can take in one week.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Boozy Eggnog Loaf Cake

We finally had some decent snow last night and today. They are calling for quite a bit again tomorrow. I love this time of year when you are so happy to see the snow that you don't mind going out to shovel it. I like that it gives me something to do while the dogs are busy playing in the yard. It is so fun to watch them run and tumble in the fresh snow. They all come in with their frosty white faces waiting for their treats.
Speaking of treats, I had not planned to hit the eggnog so hard this week, but you know I'm unemployed so why not spend my days drinking baking. I've decided to make it official and just call this eggnog week, I have one more recipe to share with you later this week and then I promise I'll move on to fruitcake or something!
There are a few food bloggers that I have been following for a really long time, whether they post once a week or once a month it doesn't matter. I keep them in my blogroll because I know that everything they post is going to be delicious. One look at this eggnog loaf cake and I knew it was going to be perfect, well perfect after I made a few small changes! Instead of commercial eggnog I used actual whipped cream with booze and fresh nutmeg. I wanted this loaf to be as light and soft as possible. I actually thought about using cake flour, but then changed my mind at the last minute. I'm glad I did as this loaf turned out just as I had hoped. The icing adds one last boozy kick. If you wanted to make this exceptionally boozy you could poke a few small holes in the top of the loaf (a chopstick works well for this) and then pour an extra tablespoon (or two) of rum, brandy, and/or bourbon over the top. Give it a little time to soak in before you add the icing and serve. You could make it without any booze at all if that is your preference, but of coarse it would then just be an Eggnog Loaf Cake.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Eggnog Butter Cookies

A simple butter cookie...there are so many options, you can start with a plain cookie and add anything from lemon to chocolate and that's just the base. You can then adorn the cookie with a simple sprinkling of powdered sugar, or you could add a frosting, or a glaze. Then you can slice and bake them, or you can roll the dough out and use cookie cutters. You could literally fill a whole cookie tray with different types of butter cookies and no one would know that they are all basically the same simple cookie recipe. I made these ones from Alice Medrich's cookbook last week. Yesterday I noticed that White on Rice Couple had a very similar recipe with an eggnog icing. If I am being totally honest I actually like butter cookies with no icing or powdered sugar, but I'm pretty sure I am in the minority on that one. If you want to make these more kid friendly you can leave out the booze, or as the nice lady at Fred Meyer mentioned, they do have rum and brandy extract in the baking section. I don't think she liked the idea of me buying booze I wasn't going to be straight up drinking! Another Fairbanks lesson learned...keep your baking habits to yourself!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Roasted Pine Nut Butter

Earlier this week I joked that I have been busier than ever since I lost my job, I imagine this must be what retirement feels like. I'm very thankful that I have a little cushion and some time to recover before I take another job, at the same time I don't want to lose that feeling of a regular schedule. Essentially, I don't want to have become lazy when it is time to go back to work. I also feel like this is my little window of opportunity to really see what I can do with this site. So between being here, a few little writing assignments, small projects, and a bit of volunteering I have created myself a schedule to hold myself accountable. It took me a while to get to that point and let go of everything that happened at my job, but once I did an amazing thing happened...I started sleeping! Well, I thought I was sleeping before, in fact I thought I was sleeping a lot. It turns out that laying in bed for 8 hours does not count as sleeping. So, with all my new found time and energy I am excited to be back here and working toward something new and exciting. I'm thankful that many of you are still here on this journey with me even if I have been a bit sporadic in my posting over the last year or so. I'm going to try and be better about that.
So that brings me to Pine Nut Butter. I really questioned whether I should make this, and even after I made it I questioned whether I should post it. The price of pine nuts is ridiculous at almost $30 a pound. This isn't something you are going to eat every day, and you certainly won't be spreading a thick layer on toast like you would peanut butter. One small taste and I think you will see that it is indeed worth it. I couldn't believe that flavor. I do caution you to be careful when roasting your pine nuts and watch them carefully. I can't imagine the frustration of burning something so expensive. This butter is incredibly rich and flavorful, a very little goes a long way. I have some plans for the batch I made including a sauce similar to peanut sauce for pasta. It would also be great as the base layer on crostini, maybe adorned with a little basil and tomato. For now I have been eating a little on the end of a tasting spoon every so often and that seems to be a good way to go too!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

How to Make a Simple Pot of Beans

It sometimes amazes me how hard it can be to keep a New Year's resolution. I know it is not even Christmas yet and I am talking about resolutions. The thing is I try to keep my resolutions light and fun, no weight loss goals here. Shouldn't resolutions be something that encourages you to do more of the things you love? So, I made two simple resolutions in 2012. The first was to spend more time exploring places in Alaska other than Fairbanks. The whole reason I moved here is that I was hoping to see more of Alaska. I did pretty well on that resolution. I made it to Homer for the Shorebird Festival in the spring. During that trip I was able to take a boat out to Tutka Bay. There were three trips to Denali National Park, although I really only got into the actual park once. Finally, I was able to go to McCarthy, Alaska. I drove the entire way, so I was able to see a whole lot of new Alaska ground. I'm not sure I would recommend driving an almost new car on that road however.
The second resolution was a seemingly simple one. Eat more beans. Now, I'm not talking baked beans in a can here. There is a whole world of dried heirloom beans out there and I wanted to try them all, or at least a good number of them. This was the second year I made this resolution and failed miserably.
I've been spending a whole lot of time alone lately and feeling pretty introspective since losing my job with the shut down of the organization. I think a lot about what I could have done better, or differently. I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel a small pang of regret. I gave up an entire year of my life and I can't help but wonder if I had put that much time and effort into this space, well I wonder where I would be now. I can't really do too much about that, but 2012 is not over yet and I can still try and eat more beans. So, this is my second batch in two weeks, not to mention I already have plans for the two remaining bags of beans in my cupboard.  That's pretty good right?
The temperatures have been hovering around -40 degrees here for a few days now. Nothing is more comforting than something warm simmering away on the stove when the weather turns bitter cold. I always hesitate to post these extremely simple recipes, but I always find they are the most viewed. I hope I might convert a few canned bean people out there, and who knows maybe you will decide to eat more beans in 2013. I'm moving on to a new resolution...
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