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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 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 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.
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