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Friday, March 29, 2013

Whole Wheat Hot Cross Buns

As always, I was surprised how easily these buns came together. I have been cooking with yeast for years now, but I am still shocked how easy it is. If you are one of those people who avoids homemade bread because you are afraid of yeast, stop missing out.  It is so easy, I promise you. If you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, it is even easier. I have a confession to make, I NEVER knead my dough by hand, even if the recipe says to, I still use the dough hook. I have never had a problem. This recipe does ask you to knead in the currents by hand and I did do that, but only because I had already cleaned everything up and put my mixer away. I'm not sure how well they would have incorporated with the bread hook anyway.
Every year I think about making hot cross buns, but Easter sneaks up on me and I never get around to it. Funny, the year that Easter is earlier than I ever remember it is the year I finally get around to making them. Now that I realize how easy they are to make, hopefully I will be making them every year. This recipe makes 24 buns, but that's ok because folklore specifically states that you are supposed to share them with friends. I asked David to bring (more than) half of them to work, but he forgot them on the counter. Looks like we are going to be very lonely the next year! Also, if you feel like you need some good luck with bread baking in your kitchen the next year, you can hang one of the buns in your kitchen to ensure that all your breads turn out perfectly. I wasn't too fond of the idea of having a moldy bun hanging around my kitchen for the next year and decided to look into this tradition a little further and found a couple of fun articles in the news this week. One family has passed down a hot cross bun for five generations, the bun was baked in 1821, the year Napoleon died! The article has some other fun tidbits of folklore, you can find it here. That's a pretty old bun, but these folks think there's might be even older, read about the 200 year old hot cross bun here.
I think I'll stick with these fresh ones thanks. Happy Easter everyone!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Crazy about Coconut Bread

I don't know if my brain is just getting soft from not working, but lately I can't remember anything. It has gotten so bad I have set myself about 10 notes and online reminders that I have jury duty on Tuesday. The problem is that I now have to remember which day is Tuesday. Not only have I been forgetful, but just crazy scatter-brained. I find this happens for a couple of weeks around this time every year. My whole internal clock gets thrown for a loop with all this light. Today, I was about to take the dogs for a walk and when I got outside I looked down to find instead of gloves, I had oven mitts on my hands! In that moment I knew I had to take a deep breath and go back inside. I went around and made sure I had turned the stove and oven off and checked on the wood stove. This kind of absent mindedness can burn a house down. Everything was fine, but it made me a little nervous that my mind is that preoccupied.
I believe it was that short circuit in my brain that caused this coconut loaf cake to come into being. It is almost as though my brain just got stuck on the coconut setting. The milk became coconut milk, the flour became coconut flour, and the butter was replaced with coconut oil. I'm positive if I would have had coconut sugar, I would have used that too. I honestly feared that so many substitutions was going to lead to one big expensive disaster. I was so thrilled to find that my baker instincts are still right on target. Yes, this loaf was absolutely perfect. A wonderful, not too sweet loaf that is great for breakfast or with an afternoon cup of tea. I used the sweetened coconut because it was all I had in the house after making a huge batch of coconut granola last week. If you wanted an even less sweet loaf, you could easily swap it out for the unsweetened stuff. Although I think it was the coconut flour that made this loaf a little more crumbly than the original, I wouldn't trade it and lose the sweet and nutty flavor it provides.
So, have you ever gone all out swapping out ingredients for a recipe? How did it turn out for you?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Incredible Coconut Key Lime Pie (an Impossible Pie)

This week. Oh, I have been trudging through this week. I feel like everything I do takes twice as long as I thought it would. I had all these ideas about how I would get caught up with things, start spring cleaning. None. None of that happened. I'm not sure what I did exactly. I didn't even go anywhere. Yesterday I finally found my way. I decided to turn off the phone and the computer for most of the day. I tested a few recipes, but when it came to cleaning I just couldn't do it with this beautiful weather. Plus, the dogs were giving me their sad faces. It's amazing I get anything at all done with those sad faces staring at me all the time. It turns out they were right. It was a beautiful day, why weren't we outside? So, I resolved to do better next week and get caught up. Then when I got home I found out that I have been called for jury duty next week. Ugh! Despite the bad timing, I'm a little excited about jury duty. I've never been called before and I'm curious to see how the process works.
So, why on a week when everything seemed to be more challenging than most would I make something called Impossible Pie? Well, that's the secret. Impossible Pie is not impossible at all, but really quite incredible. You mix all the ingredients together, pour it in a pie plate. Incredibly, it separates in the oven forming a chewy coconut crust and a nice custard layer in between. So, I'm not sure how it ever got the name impossible, as it is incredible how easily the whole thing comes together. Most of the recipes I found online were for making two impossible pies. I was pretty sure I didn't need two whole pies in my house, so I adapted the recipe for one incredible pie that is impossible to stop eating.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Technology in the Kitchen: AT&T Sponsored Post

I'm not the kind of person who likes a lot of gadgets in my kitchen, especially things that clutter up the counter tops. Yet, because I so often use recipes and cookbooks, this little stand almost permanently sits on my kitchen counter. In the past I would often print out recipes that I wanted to try, but after a while the clutter and confusion of trying to find the right one when I needed it became overwhelming. Sometimes I found myself printing out the same recipe three times. Honestly, that was one of the main reasons I started this site, to keep track of all those recipes I didn't want to lose. Then Pinterest came along and it became much easier to keep track of all those recipes I wanted to make. The need to print them out became less necessary. Over time I found my laptop was spending more time in the kitchen than it was on a desk. I always worried that I would dump something on the keyboard, luckily I never did. When I switched to an I-Phone last summer it became much easier to bring the internet and my recipes into the kitchen, although I must admit that it was a bit hard to read and all that scrolling, shrinking, and expanding font sizes was really gunking up my screen. So when AT&T contacted me to see if I would like to try out the  Samsung Galaxy Tab™ 8.9, I was thrilled.
The thing I found most helpful is that I could size the recipe to fit my screen and then adjust the settings so the screen would stay lit for 30 minutes. It made it so nice to not have to touch the screen with my gooey kitchen fingers.
I must admit that as eager as I am to bring technology into the kitchen, I'm still a little apprehensive about giving up my cookbooks in hard copy form. Although, now that I am contemplating another move, I'm thinking how nice it would be to have them all in a digital version. So, just for fun I downloaded a sample of Deborah Madison's new book, "Vegetable Literacy". I had recently held this beautiful, but weighty book in my hand and just couldn't bring myself to purchase another cookbook. The book is full of great information and beautiful pictures, would it translate to a tablet? I think I surprised myself when the answer was a definite yes. It might not be the answer for everyone, but as I look to my future. I only see more cookbooks. The question is, move or no move, where will I put them all? They have already taken over the kitchen and the living room. Twice in the last three months I have taken boxes full of cookbooks to our local literacy council in an effort to whittle down my collection. Still, I have almost 150 cookbooks. It would be one thing if they stayed on the shelves, but no they make their way to counter tops and tables, they are in almost every room of the house (not the bathroom, that's gross).
Cookbooks are just the start. I recently decided that I just wasn't going to purchase so many magazines anymore. I would limit myself to three a month. Those stacks and piles were getting out of control too. The great thing about the tablet is that as you are reading a magazine, instead of marking things you want to look up later, there is most often a clickable link to go right there. So all those fun gadgets you see in cooking magazines can be right at your finger tips. You need something to fill in those spaces where the cookbooks once sat! So, I can only say that I am embracing this technology in my kitchen. How about you? Do you swear you'll never give up your cookbooks? Are you still printing off recipes? How do you feel about technology in the kitchen? I'd love to hear your opinion, for better or worse.

Also, if you are considering a tablet purchase, the Samsung Galaxy Tab™ 8.9 is on sale right now for $459.99. They are having a sale and they are $100 off.

Full Disclosure: AT&T sent me a Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 for this review. No monetary compensation was provided. All wording and views expressed in this post are my own.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Raspberry Friands

I love my stand mixer, I really do, but sometimes it is nice to make a recipe that just requires a bowl and a simple wooden spoon. Sometimes I have to remember that I didn't always own a stand mixer and others probably still don't. I'm always amazed when I read that people own them and never use them. I honestly use mine almost every day. Today, I'm going to let it take a little rest while I make raspberry friands.
I have been fascinated lately by muffin type baked goods from cultures around the world. There are a few I have been experimenting with over the years, like a Salvadorian one that contains a lot of eggs and butter. I find that they are just too rich for me. A rich, eggy breakfast muffin is a nice treat, but not when it leaves you with a belly ache.
This Australian version of the friand is a nice balance, rich, but not too rich. I think it is the use of only the egg whites that helps.
I had been wanting to make these for a while, but I really wanted to wait until raspberry season rolled around again. Usually I make my berry supply last and am often making up crazy mixed berry jams in an effort to make room for the following years stash. This year I had limited picking time, so things went pretty quick. Last week I searched my freezer and thought that all of last years raspberries had already been used up. Somehow I had missed the one final bag. I had packed it flat and so it just blended in at the bottom of the freezer. I was thrilled to find it and I knew right away that I would make these friands. I did cheat and buy a box of raspberries from the grocery store to garnish them though. I have to admit, as much as I love our local raspberries, a few fresh ones in the dead of winter was kind of a nice treat. Although it is just going to make waiting for the next raspberry season all that much harder.
What seasonal fruits and berries do you squirrel away for the winter? Do you ration them out to make them last? Are you able to use them all up by the time the next years picking season rolls around?

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Emerald Cocktail

Wow, where did the week go? It's Friday already? Well, I better get this cocktail posted for you. As they say, it's 5:00 somewhere. Not only is it 5:00 somewhere, but it is also the Friday right before St. Patrick's Day. I'm sure many of you are planning some corned beef and cabbage for this weekend. Am I right? What about drinks? Are you the green beer type, or do you lean more towards Irish Coffee?
I'm a big fan of the Manhattan and this drink, The Emerald is an Irish version of the Manhattan made with Irish Whiskey. I had never heard of this drink until a few weeks ago when I was searching for a good St. Patrick's Day cocktail. I was actually surprised that this hadn't already made the rounds on the internet considering emerald is the Pantone color of the year. Of course, the drink isn't actually emerald itself.
I wish you all a fun and festive weekend. Whatever your drink of choice, Sláinte!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Irish Coffee Blondies

I just returned from a whirlwind trip to Anchorage, 15 hours of driving in one 36 hour time period. I was totally wiped out today. I thought I might be getting sick, but I'm pretty sure I was just tired. In the last few years the majority of my trips to Anchorage have been by plane. It was nice to have the luxury of my own car to stop up on some fun supplies, mostly groceries. I didn't have to worry about only having a carry-on bag and not being able to bring back any liquids. Yet, I couldn't help but think that I might be moving soon and everything I bought was something I would potentially have to take with me if I did. So, I brought back a mostly empty car. One thing I have been doing lately during long drives is listening to language learning CD's. I find it remarkably meditative. You can't really think about anything else, it really clears the mind. I used to listen to books on tape in the car, but even then I still found my mind would wander off and I would miss whole chapters of the book. Do you have any secrets to keeping your brain occupied on long car trips?
It's taken me a while to figure this all out, but I recently realized if I don't post holiday recipes until the day of the actual holiday, nobody is going to make them. By the time next year rolls around, you will have totally forgotten about them and there will be some hot new green recipe for St. Patrick's Day next year. That's another thing, I'm not really a big fan of green recipes, or green beer for that matter. Maybe that's because I don't want to reserve Irish Coffee for one day of the year, or Irish Cream especially. Although, I might be better off reserving these blondies for only one day a year. They are great with a cup of coffee. Cut them into small squares, they are very rich, and very buttery. If I say something is rich, well it definitely is! If you absolutely must have something green on the menu for St. Patrick's Day, go ahead and add a few drops of green food coloring to the glaze.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Asparagus, Spinach, and Red Pepper Salad topped with Goat Cheese Fritters

I hope you won't mind if I keep this one short today. I'm spending the day in Anchorage, a little business, and a little pleasure. I'll be stocking up on groceries and stopping by a couple of my favorite restaurants. It was nice to get out of Fairbanks, but the drive was a little scary. The roads are a mess this time of year.
So, with little fanfare...this salad is amazing. Those fritters are crazy good. The original recipe called for one fritter per salad. No way. I can't do it. So go, make this salad now. It's the perfect time of year for asparagus and goat cheese.
I'll see you later this week with some fun non-green, yet still very much St. Patrick's Day treats. Happy Monday!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Blueberry Corn Cookies

I have made two of Christina Tosi's recipes prior to this one, crack pie and caramelized cornflake cookies. There were a few common denominators between the two recipes. The first thing I have noticed is that Christina loves her salt. This sweet and salty combo leads to a highly addictive quality to her baked goods. Finally, I vowed never to make either of the two previous recipes again for the fact that I could not be trusted alone with an entire recipe for either of them. They were both too good and yet oh so very bad. The good thing about those two recipes is that you needed to commit a fair amount of time to each of them, therefore discouraging repeat offenses into the world of the very unhealthy.
These corn cookies, while not too difficult to make do involve sourcing some specialty ingredients. I would imagine that corn flour may be difficult for a lot of people to find, but the freeze dried corn is going to be difficult for just about everyone. I ordered both of these ingredients online from a company called "". They do sell more than nuts by the way.
As with the other recipes I mentioned, these cookies were oddly addictive. Possibly more odd than the others. On first bite these cookies reminded me of the Cheetos they used to sell without the cheese on them. I don't think they sell them anymore. Do you know what I am talking about? As a kid I remember these, they were weird, salty corn puffs. Some people would make caramel corn out of them.
When I was getting ready to make the recipe I couldn't decide if I should make them as is, or change things up a bit. The regular corn cookies have been posted 100 times over on other sites, so I wouldn't exactly be introducing anything new. I couldn't help thinking about a blueberry cobbler I had last summer with a cornmeal crust. That blueberry and corn flavor was amazing. So, I decided to go for it and add blueberries. I'm so glad I did. I loved the contrast of the sweet dried blueberries and the salty corn flavor. This is the first Christina Tosi recipe I could see myself making again. I mean, with blueberries they are almost healthy. The best part is that they turn out a pretty impressive looking cookie. When David came home that night he asked, "Where did you buy the cookies"? They did look like real bakery cookies.
Have you tried any of Christina Tosi's recipes from her Milk bar cookbook? What did you think?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Asparagus with Egg, Parmesan, and Lemon

I have been so busy thinking about St. Patrick's Day recipes and celebrations that I didn't even realize that Easter is right around the corner as well. Not to mention that we need to turn our clocks ahead one hour when we go to bed on Saturday night. It feels like spring is really here. Well, sort of...there is still all that snow. I'm not convinced there isn't more coming. In the meantime I'll celebrate spring in the simple ways that I can for now, like enjoying those first little scrawny spears of asparagus we are finding at the local grocery store. If this year is anything like the last few, I predict there will be a whole lot of asparagus on our menu that next few weeks (and one more day of snow shoveling). I love asparagus roasted, steamed, tossed in pasta, as a side item, added to get the picture. I'm always looking for new ways with asparagus, if you have a suggestion, leave me a comment. I'd love to hear it.
This dish is really easy to put together. The only thing that takes any time is the boiling of the eggs. The ingredients remind me a bit of a deconstructed ceasar dressing. The perfect thing for a spring lunch, or maybe a light dinner with a piece of Alaska Salmon.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Smoked Salmon Corn Chowder

I love a good chowder, especially in the winter. It is just the perfect thing for this time of year. The days are getting longer, so we are spending more time outside. Something warm and hearty really hits the spot. I used to make a lot of clam chowder when I lived in Washington State, there was a great vendor at the farmer's market that sold clams. Since moving to Fairbanks I haven't made any chowder at all. That is because when I worked in town I would get chowder for lunch at least once a week. It wasn't the best chowder, but when you are eating it regularly, you just don't feel like making it at home too. Now that I only go to town once a week, or so I don't eat much (any) chowder anymore. My two favorites at the local place I visit are the smoked salmon chowder and the halibut corn chowder. It was always a toss up because I really like smoked salmon, but sometimes the corn would make me lean toward the halibut. The great thing when you make your own chowder is that you can put whatever you want in it. So, when I saw this recipe a couple weeks ago for smoked salmon chowder I knew right away that I would have to add corn. This is chowder exactly how I like it, not too thin, but not thick and gloppy like the restaurant stuff either. I like mine with a good serving of crackers as well. I prefer fresh herbs, but if you don't have access to them you can use dried instead, just make sure and use much less than you would of fresh. I'm pretty excited to have a chowder recipe that I am really happy with, maybe when I go back to work I can finally get in the routine of packing my lunch from home. If so, this chowder will go in the regular rotation.
One more thing, the guy at my local liquor store gave me a great tip when buying wine for this chowder. I don't know why I never thought of it before, but when I said I was buying the wine for soup, he directed me to the small bottles of wine that come in the 4 packs. No, it's not the best drinking wine, but it is far better than the "cooking wine" you find in the regular part of the grocery store. The little bottle was just the right size, and there was enough selection that I was actually able to find a half way decent wine for the chowder. I know you aren't supposed to cook with any wine you wouldn't drink. At the same time I don't really want to pour a bottle of good drinking wine into a pot of soup either. 
What about you, what are your favorite chowder ingredients? Do you like yours with corn? Do you get upset when there are too many potatoes?  Do you like it creamy or brothy? Finally, red or white clam chowder? I must admit that I am sorely disappointed when I order clam chowder and it turns out to be the red stuff.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Lime, Basil, and Mandarin Salad

A few years ago I took a trip to San Francisco. It was a great trip. Not only did I get to spend some time with Ruth Reichl, I visited Karen at The  Lemon Ladies Orchard, and I met Shae for the first time. I stopped by Omnivore Books, Sam was still working there then. She directed me to some great restaurants. I picked up a cook book to take home as a souvenir from my trip. I love imported cookbooks, in my brief look through this one I knew there would be many recipes I would like to try.
When I returned home it was back to training our 10 month old, 115 pound puppy. We were experimenting with leaving him home alone for brief periods of time, and progressively longer periods of time. One of those longer periods we came home to find everything that had been on the kitchen counter chewed apart, or eaten. It was a huge mess sprawling one end of the house to the other. In the mess I found my new cook book laying open, face down on the floor. The front (hardcover) cover had been partially chewed, dog tooth puncture marks were through the entire book, and  few pages had been ripped out and eaten completely. I was so angry with myself, the dog, and the whole incident. I almost threw the book away, but David convinced me to keep it. So, I shoved it up on the shelf and there it sat until I noticed it a few days ago. Somehow, two years later the damage didn't seem so bad. Those recipes that had piqued my interest all those years ago were still there. Yes, I couldn't help but think back to that day and laugh. Oh, what a mess! The book still  reminds me of that wonderful trip.
I had been looking for a mandarin salad, something different. At first I was excited, but then the combination reminded me of a perfume I once had. I was kind of turned off, who wants to eat a salad that tastes like perfume? Not me. There was something about it that kept calling to me, so I finally made it for lunch. The basil and sesame seeds are key players in this salad, don't skimp on them if you make it. The flavor combination was wonderful, nothing like the perfume, but if you want to dab some behind your ears, I won't tell anyone!
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