Friday, December 30, 2011

Chocolate Toffee Cookies

We have 5 dogs.  I want to be perfectly clear that I did not bring any of these dogs home, but somehow I am the one who feeds them every morning, brushes them, brushes their teeth and lets them out first thing in the morning.  Four of the five are rescue dogs of one type or another.  One was a gift to me from my husband after we lost two of our dogs when our house burned 11 years ago.
Tucker, a golden retriever rescue dog, has developed an anxiety disorder.
All our dogs go into a built in kennel in the garage while we are gone.  They have room to move around, blankets to sleep in and they stay safe and out of stuff while we are at work.  Tucker will have none of it.  After years of happily going into the kennel when we leave, he decided he wasn't going to do that anymore and began to chew everything...the door of the kennel, the wall, the beams that held the kennel together...everything.  We tried several things, giving him more attention, scolding him, chew toys with peanut butter, nothing worked.  One day, we left him in the house alone.  He loves is.  And other than sitting on the couch while we are gone (as if we couldn't tell) he is a very good boy and doesn't get into anything.  That is, until I left cookies to cool on the table one day.
I needed to run to the store a couple of blocks away to pick something up for dinner - really quick.  I took cookies out of the oven, kenneled four of the dogs, and ran to the store.  When I came home, Tucker had pulled the table cloth until the cookies on the cooling rack were right at the edge of the table where he happily ate the dozen cookies.  Really?  I had the cooling rack in the middle of the table and all the chairs pushed in so he couldn't get them, and he pulls the table cloth?  At least I had more dough in the fridge and could bake another couple of dozen.  These are the cookies, notice no table cloth on the table.  I think I learned my lesson.


Chocolate and Toffee Cookies
 from Perfect Cookies, Fog City Press

3/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
6 oz semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chocolate-covered toffee candy bars, chopped (I used Heath Bars)

Preheat oven to 375º F.  Un a large bowl, combine brown sugar, butter and vanilla.  Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the mixtrue until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg.
In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and slat.  Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix on low speed just until blended.  Add the chocolate chips and chopped toffee and mix with a spoon until incorporated.  Drop the dough by heaping teaspoonful onto cookie sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart.
Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown.  Transfer to wire racks to cool.
Makes about 42 cookies.
Tucker, the cookie eater, with his tire, LoBo and Lilly in the back, Hershey next to Tucker.



December 30,  2011     Daylight 3 hours, 52 minutes, 48 seconds    Current Temp. -26 ºF

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Russian Rye Sourdough Bread - A Daring Baker's Challenge


Rye Sourdough bread, made with out commercial yeast.


 I am very worried I just don't have enough to do.  The winters are long and dark, and my kids all live somewhere else.  I cook, I sew, I work with stained glass, I go to dinner with my friends, I work full time, even though I retired.  But I was worried I might not keep busy enough.  Something about idle hands...
So, I signed up for Daring Baker sometime in November and anxiously waited to be accepted and get my first challenge.  Daring Baker is a group from the Daring Kitchen (http://thedaringkitchen.com).  There are two groups Daring Bakers and Daring Cooks.  Each month you get a challenge and everyone posts their challenge results on the same day.  I found them one day while cruising through Tastespotting and saw about 7 of the same recipe.  When I went to those different sites, they mentioned Daring Bakers and I was ready to add that to my list of things to do.
My first challenge was sourdough.  Oh! I knew I had this made.  I've had a sourdough starter in my fridge for the last 30 years! I wanted to participate in the whole challenge so I decided to make the sourdough from the very beginning.
I set out to make a whole wheat starter and a rye starter.  You start with flour and water and let it set out someplace warm.  Every day you add more flour and water to feed the little yeasties growing in the flour.  After 4-5 days you are able to make bread!  The longer you keep your starter the more pronounced the sour taste in the finished bread.  The rye starter was a success.  I had to remake the wheat starter as the first one never grew yeast.  So much for me having this challenge made in the shade.  I purchased new organic whole wheat flour and used bottled water and the second time around I was successful.
The following directions are from this months Daring Baker's host  Jessica from My Recipe Project.


Russian Rye Bread
Servings: 1 large loaf or 2 small loaves and excess rye starter to keep for further baking.
Rye Starter - Day 1:
Ingredients
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (50 ml) (25 gm/1 oz) whole (dark) rye flour
1/4 cup (60 ml) water (at 104°F/40°C)
Total scant ½ cup (110 ml) (3 oz/85 gm)
Directions:
1. In a Tupperware or plastic container, mix the flour and water into a paste.
2. Set the lid on top gently, cover with a plastic bag, to prevent messes in case it grows more than expected!
3. Set somewhere warm (around 86°F/30°C if possible). I sometimes put mine on a windowsill near a radiator, but even if it’s not that warm, you’ll still get a starter going – it might just take longer. It should  be a very sloppy, runny dough, which will bubble and grow as it ferments.
Rye Starter - Day 2:
Ingredients
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (50 ml) (25 gm/1 oz) whole (dark) rye flour
1/4 cup (60 ml) water (at 104°F/40°C)
scant 1/2 cup (110 ml) (3 oz/85 gm) starter from Day 1
Total scant 1 cup (220 ml) (6 oz/170 gm)
Directions:
1. Stir the flour and water into the mixture from Day 1, cover, and return to its warm place.
My sourdough starter warm, on a table next to the fireplace.  I had a thermometer close to keep an eye on the temp.

Rye Starter - Day 3:

Ingredients
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (50 ml) (25 gm/1 oz) whole (dark) rye flour
1/4 cup (60 ml) water (at 104°F/40°C)
scant 1 cup (220 ml) (6 oz/170 gm) starter from Day 2
Total 1 cup plus 6 tablespoons (330 ml) (9 oz/255 gm)
Directions:
1. Stir the flour and water into the mixture from Day 2, cover, and return to its warm place. If you notice it has a grey liquid on top, just stir this back in and continue as normal.
Rye Starter - Day 4:
Ingredients
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (50 ml) (25 gm/1 oz) whole (dark) rye flour
1/4 cup (60 ml) water (at 104°F/40°C)
1 cup plus 6 tablespoons (330 ml) (255 gm/9 oz) starter from Day 3
Total about 1¾ cups (440 ml) (12 oz/340 gm)
Directions:
1. Stir the flour and water into the mixture from Day 3, cover, and return to its warm place. At this point it should be bubbling and smell yeasty. If not, repeat this process for a further day or so until it is!

Russian Rye Bread - Step 1: Production Sourdough
Ingredients
1/4 cup less 2 teaspoons (50 ml) (50 gm/1 ¾ oz) rye leaven (starter)
1 cup plus 2 teaspoons (250 ml) (150 gm/5 ⅓ oz) whole (dark) rye flour
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) (300 gm/10 ½ oz) water
Total 2½ cup (600 ml) (500 gm/17½ oz/1 lb 1½ oz)

Directions:
1. Mix everything into a sloppy dough. Cover and set aside for 12-24 hours, until bubbling. Set aside the remaining starter for further loaves.

Russian Rye Bread - Step 2: Final Dough
Ingredients
2 cups (480 ml) (440 gm/15 ½ oz) production sourdough (this should leave some (½ cup) to become your next loaf of bread!)
2 1/3 cups (560 ml) (330 gm/11 ⅔ oz) rye flour (light or whole)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm/.2 oz) sea salt or ½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (2½ gm/.1 oz) table salt
3/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons (200 ml) (200 gm/7 oz) water (at 104°F/40°C)
Total 5 cups plus 3 tablespoons (1245 ml) (975 gm/2 lb 2⅓ oz)

Directions:
1. Mix all the ingredients together to form a soft dough. With wet hands, scoop the dough up and put it in a well-greased loaf tin.
2. Put the tin inside a large plastic bag, blow it up, and seal it. This should make a good little dome for your bread to proof inside. Set aside somewhere room temperature to warm.
3. The dough should be ready to bake with in anywhere between 2-8 hours, depending on how warm it is. I proof mine by a sunny window in about 4 hours. If the dough was halfway up the tin when you started, it will be ready when it reaches the top (i.e. almost doubles in size).
4. Preheat the oven to very hot 470°F/240°C/gas mark 9. For a large loaf, bake for 50-60 minutes, reducing the temperature to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6 after about 10-15 minutes. If baking in small loaf tins, bake for 35-45 minutes, reducing the temperature after 10 minutes. If you are unsure about whether it is done, give it a few minutes longer – it is a very wet dough, so the extra time won’t hurt.
5. Leave to cool on a cooling rack, and rest the loaf for a day before eating it.

Tips:
I keep my sourdough in the fridge between uses.  The night before I want to use it I put it in a glass bowl, stir in equal weight of water and flour and let sit on the counter overnight.  I put 1 cup back in the glass jar in the fridge and use the rest for what ever bread I am going to make.

The rye bread is much wetter than any sourdough I've ever made. But I've always used commercial yeast with my sourdough.  I was really surprised when it worked!  It was more like a batter than a bread dough.

When my whole wheat starter didn't start the first time, I found a great site on the internet with tips.  If you are interested here it is: http://www.sourdoughhome.com



December 28, 2011    Daylight  3 hours,  48 minutes,  4 seconds     Current Temp. -17º F

Monday, December 26, 2011

Amazon Packages and Scotch Eggs


My dad called a couple of days ago.  He called to make sure my husband was getting home from work before me and was checking the mail.  He sent a gift from Amazon and knew he had to send Dave a warning about getting home first.
I love getting the mail everyday.  It is like a little present even if it is only a bill or an advertisement.  I always ask Dave, "Did you check the mail?" Like he would ever forget because he knows I'm going to ask.  I don't usually check the mail, I'm not allowed.  You see, the act of receiving mail is very stressful for me.  I had an incident once that haunts me to this day.  My family knows if they are sending mail to me, CALL AHEAD. WARN DAVE, MAKE SURE TONI DOESN'T CHECK THE MAIL!

We have a large family, are we are spread out across the states.  For Christmas, the adults used to draw names and send a gift to that person.  My dad and mom were in charge of drawing names for everyone and they let us know.  One year I drew one of my brothers.  He said there was a book about computers he wanted.  I got on Amazon, ordered the book, had it gift-wrapped and sent straight to his house.  I was done, on time and something I knew he would love.  I was smiling.
And then-
This year's package, luckily not the size of a book.

I came home from school and there on step was a package from Amazon, the size of a book.  How could they mess this up so badly? I was ahead of the game and they just messed up my whole Christmas spirit.  Did I put the information in the "to" and "from" backwards?  It was a busy time of year, I was a Principal of an elementary school at the time and life before Christmas is crazy, but could I have been that rushed and confused?  I took the box inside to contemplate the situation.  I didn't want to open the box so I could send it back to Amazon, or should I just stick a label on it and mail it to my brother in Arizona?  Could they have gotten the address wrong because both states, Alaska and Arizona, started with an A? Was this my mistake or theirs?  Did I need a drink at this point? YES.  I couldn't have one because I had to get 5 kids fed and all of us back to my school for the Christmas band and orchestra concert.  I needed to make decisions and quickly.
So I called the help number on the top of the box.  The conversation went something like this.
Me: "I'm calling about a book I ordered for my brother."
Amazon Customer Service (ACS): "Yes, that book was delivered to his house today"
Me: "Um, no, it was delivered to my house.  I'm holding it right here."
ACS: "My records state it was delivered to ____(brother's address in Arizona) today and he signed for it."
Me:  "I'm holding the book right here, could you have sent two, one to me and one to him?  Should I send this back to you?"
ACS: "What is the title of the book you are holding?"
Me: "I don't know, it is something about computers."
ACS: "Can you read me the title?"
Me: (voice a couple of octaves higher and much louder now) "I didn't open the box, I want to send it back to you without having to pay extra postage."
ACS: "My records indicate that only one book was ordered and charged to this acct."
Me (so out of patience as the conversation was a lot longer than this, I'm severely editing my part) "Well then, why am I holding the book now and I live in Alaska?"
ACS: "M'am, could someone have sent you a present?"

ACS: "M'am,

ACS: "M'am?".............

Me: "Oh!"

ACS:  "Why don't you open the package and see what book is inside?"
Me (opening the package): "Oh!  It's a cookbook from a different brother. Oh, I'm so sorry"
ACS (trying to cover the sound of her laughing with a cough): "Not a problem M'am, you made my day.  Merry Christmas."

My family no longer draws names for Christmas (as far as I know), and Dave checks the mail.


Scotch eggs are the perfect little package.  The hard boiled egg, a taste of mustard encased in a spicy sausage cover all blanketed in crispy breadcrumbs and baked.  I think the original recipes called for deep frying these tasty little morsels, and that would be one way to do it. I like to bake mine and then don't feel quite so guilty for putting more than one on my plate.
I made these delightful little morsels for our office Christmas open house.  They were so good, Dave requested a batch for his work on Friday morning.  After I baked them, I placed them all into a ceramic dish I heated in the oven.  They stayed nice and warm in transport and for serving.  Serve them with a selection of mustards.

Scotch Eggs
1 dozen eggs for boiling plus two for coating
2 lbs. sausage (I use our moose breakfast sausage or spicy Italian moose sausage)
yellow mustard
seasoned breadcrumbs (I used homemade seasoned with garlic, sage, salt and pepper ground fine)
assorted mustards for serving (I use dijon, stone ground, and spicy brown)

Boil eggs until whites are set but centers are soft.  I fill up a pan with cold water, add eggs, bring to a full rolling boil,  remove from heat, let sit 3 minutes, flush with cold water until cool.  Peel eggs, rinse and dry.
Preheat oven to 375º F.
Divide sausage into 12 pieces (3 oz. each), flatten into rounds large enough to encase eggs.  Squirt a small amount of mustard on sausage and top with egg.  Cover egg completely with sausage and pinch to close completely.  Roll carefully to make sausage smooth.
Beat extra two eggs in a small bowl, place breadcrumbs in separate bowl.  Dip sausage covered eggs completely in egg, roll in breadcrumbs, pressing to ensure a complete coating.
Place on greased baking sheet, bake 25-30 minutes.  I usually cut one right away to ensure the sausage is cooked through.  Then you have to eat it because you can't serve a cut scotch egg!
Serve with assorted mustards.

Tips:
The eggs are a little harder to peel because they are soft boiled, be careful but don't worry about how the eggs look, they will be covered with sausage.  It's not like deviled eggs sitting on a plate.

Use small/medium eggs.  The extra large I buy for baking make a really big serving and look intimidating.  Buy the smallest available in your store (I know why there are so many recipes that use quail eggs!). The smaller ones also cover easier with the sausage.

Use at least 3 oz. of sausage per egg.  I weigh mine, but you don't have to do that.  You can use up to 4 oz. and it is a little easier to get the eggs covered.

These hold the heat very well and are great for making at home and packing for a potluck.




December 26, 2011  Daylight 3 hours,  44 minutes,  34 seconds   Current Temp.  -20ºF

Friday, December 23, 2011

Champagne Bar - Drink of the Week


Setting up pitchers for fruit puree, counting glasses and the ice bucket is ready.


The next two weeks include Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.  So much to celebrate, so little time.  For Drink of the week (or drink of the next two weeks) nothing works like Champagne.  It is the perfect thing for celebrations, good friends, ringing out the old year and welcoming the new. I do love Champagne, I love cheap champagne and I love expensive champagne!  I try not to feed my friends the cheap stuff, but sometimes it happens.  I will have a stocked Champagne Bar for the next two weeks.  I'll go with a case of good Prosecco and have a bottle of my favorite Champagne for New Year's Eve.
A Champagne bar is very easy.  Have several bottles of Prosecco or Champagne in the fridge and some juice and other add-ins on hand.  Put it all on a side table with some champagne flutes and you are always ready for company.  I really like to use the bottled fruit nectar for the fruit juice.  My friend Mary said half Chambord and half Champagne is really good, I'll have to try that this year.  Don't try to have everything on this list, it is just to give you ideas and to cover many different tastes.  (I actually cut and paste this list from the internet from a search,  "How to set up a Champagne bar," and I found the exact list on two other blog sites, so it is not original).  I'll stick with frozen raspberries, three or four juices, Cointreau, Chambord, and pomegranate seeds.
Happy Holidays, how ever you celebrate.   I'll take mine with Champagne.
From our house to yours, Merry Christmas and a Peaceful New Year.

For the Champagne Bar:
  1. frozen raspberries
  2. frozen strawberries
  3. thinly sliced clementines
  4. pineapple wedges
  5. sliced star fruit
  6. sugar cubes
  7. orange juice
  8. pomegranate juice
  9. pineapple juice
  10. peach puree
  11. mango nectar
  12. Cointreau
  13. gin
  14. vodka
  15. creme de cassis
  16. simple syrup
  17. orange peel
  18. lemon peel
  19. whole mint leaves
  20. candied ginger
  21. Chambord 
December 23, 2011     Daylight  3 hours,  41 minutes,  46 seconds     Current Temp 5º F

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lemon Tart and the Darkest Day of the Year



December 21 is Solstice.  I never thought about this date until I moved to Alaska.
Winter solstice is the shortest day of the year.  If you check the very bottom of each post, it tells you that day's daylight, a big deal when you have about 3 hours of it and most of that time the sun is coming up or going down, so not really bright.  We all look forward to December 23 when we actually start gaining daylight, about 1 minute to begin with, but it is a gain.
Because it is so dark and cold, we have to do something to keep our spirits up.  I decided what better way than to make (and eat) a tart, a sunny lemon curd tart.  It is full of vitamin C, is a beautiful sunny color and even though he lives in California now it will help us celebrate our son Tom's birthday.
Happy Birthday Tom.

Lemon Tart
Adapted from Ina Garten, Barefoot in Paris

Pastry:
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
6 tbsp. cold unsalted butter
2 tbsp. cold crisco
1/4 cup ice water
2 tbsp. vodka

Combine flour, sugar and salt in a bowl and place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.  Put the flour mixture in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Add the butter and Crisco and pulse about 10 times until the butter is in small bits.  Add the vodka to the ice water, add to the flour mixture and process until the dough comes together.  Dump on a well-floured board and form into a disc.  Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375º F.

Roll out the dough and fit into a 9 inch tart pan with removable sides. Don't stretch the dough when placing in the pan or it will shrink during baking.  Cut off the excess by rolling the pin across the top of the pan.  Line the tart shell with a piece of aluminum foil, and fill it with dried beans or rice.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove the beans and the foil and prick the bottom of the shell all over with a fork to allow steam to escape.  Bake for another 15-20 minutes, until lightly browned.  Set aside to cool.

Lemon Curd
1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
4 extra large eggs
4 large lemons
1/8 tsp. salt

Wash and zest lemons (I use a microplane but if you are careful to not get the white pith you can use a vegetable peeler), juice lemons, you need 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice.
Cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer for 1 minute.  On low, add eggs one at a time, add salt, lemon zest and lemon juice.  It will look curdled.
Pour mixture into a small saucepan and cook over medium low heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until thick, stirring constantly with a spoon.  Whisk briskly when it starts to thicken and cook over low heat for a minute or two.  Don't allow to boil.  It will be 175º F on an instant read thermometer.  Pour into a bowl to cool.

When cooled, pour into cooled shell.  Refrigerate.

To serve top with sweetened whipped cream and garnish with lemon zest.  Think of the sun.


December 21, 2011       Daylight  3 hours,   41 minutes,  34 seconds       Current Temp   6º F

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Frog Eye Salad


Family in Alaska has a slightly different flavor to it than anywhere else.  Many of us moved to Alaska, away from our families and settled here so others have adopted us as honorary members of their families. Some of us have families that have moved to warmer climates, like Arizona, California and Oregon, leaving us Fairbanksians alone in the dark and the cold (thank you boys...and dad and mom).  We adopt, are adopted and family are those around us with whom we rely on and know we can count on.  Luckily, my husband does have family here, and we have wonderful friends so we are blessed with a whole bunch of people I am proud to call my Fairbanks Family.

My favorite Fairbanks niece, Nichole, makes frog eye salad for me.  She brings it for every special occasion like Thanksgiving, Christmas, my birthday that is coming up soon...
I don't make it myself because I can't be trusted with a whole batch in the house alone with me.

I. Will. Eat. It. All.

So Nickie brings it, I get a serving, the left-overs and I've only eaten half the batch not the whole thing.  It is a sweet salad made with mandarin oranges, pineapple and cool whip.  The frog eyes are acini di pepe pasta, some people think it is made with tapioca, they are about the same size.    I think most people eat it as a dessert but I eat it as anything I can get away with.  It is cool, sweet, creamy and the perfect breakfast when the rest of the house is asleep and I don't have to share.

Tips:
Don't try this at home alone - you will eat the whole batch.
I couldn't get the lighting right at Thanksgiving, the picture was way too dark (give me a break, you know I live in the dark all the time.  There is no "natural light" and I'm waiting for Christmas for my husband to buy me some lighting..hint, hint.) SO, I asked Nickie to make another batch so I could photograph it.  O.K., so my lighting didn't turn out any better.  Dave came home and asked where the large cool whip tub of salad was (Nickie had told him).  I had already taken the too dark pictures and eaten the whole bunch!  It's just not safe at my house.

Frog Eye Salad
1 c. Acini de Pepe pasta
1 can (20oz.) Pineapple tidbits
1 can (15oz.) Mandarin oranges
3/4 cup sugar
dash of salt
8 oz. Cool Whip
2 tbsp flour
2 egg yolks

Cook 1 cup dry macaroni in 2 quarts of water for 9 minutes, or as directed on package.  Drain, rinse and drain, then cool.

Drain the fruit (keep the juice from the pineapple).

In a sauce pan, combine pineapple juice, sugar, flour, salt and slightly beaten eggs.  Cook until thickened, stirring constantly.  Cool to room temperature.  Pour over macaroni, and refrigerate overnight.  In the morning, add fruit and Cool Whip and mix well.   Serves about 8-10 people.

December 20, 2011   Daylight 3 hours, 41 minutes, 59 seconds   Current Temp. 18º F

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Moose Short Ribs



This year my husband had the butcher cut short ribs when we had to moose processed.  We have never had that done before, usually the rib meat went into the grind and became burger or sausage but luckily one of the hunters that went to moose camp this year wanted that cut.  There our ribs sat in the freezer. I didn't know what to do with them.  I was reading October's cooking Light, and there was a recipe for Cabernet Short Ribs.  I had a couple of bottles of great cabernet from a winery in Oregon when I went to visit two of my boys, and I had the moose ribs in the freezer, I figured it was worth a try.  They were delicious!  Fall off the bone tender, full of flavor, pure comfort food at it's finest.  I had one package left.  I decided to make them this weekend, it is dark, it is cold, our kids are all gone, we are feeling sorry for ourselves...quite the pity party!  We needed some good comfort food to ease the pain.  Oh! They were so good.  I don't think I can wait until next fall, when Dave gets the next moose, to have these again.  I am willing to buy beef to make these.

Cabernet Short Ribs
adapted from Cooking Light, October 2011
8 bone in moose ribs (you can use beef, the recipe called for 16 3oz. ribs)
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 med. onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
6 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 1/2 cups cabernet
1 1/4 cup beef broth
2 tbsp. all purpose flour
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Sprinkle ribs with salt and pepper.  Heat a large dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add 1 tbsp. olive oil to pan, add half the ribs and saute for 6 minutes turning to brown on all sides.  Remove ribs to plate, repeat procedure with remaining oil and ribs.  Add onion, carrots, celery and garlic to pan.  Cook 3 minutes stirring constantly.  Add wine to pan and bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits.  Cook for 13 minutes or until reduced to 2 cups.
Preheat oven to 350º F.
Add broth to pan and bring to a boil.  Return ribs to the pan.  Cover and bake for 1 1/2 hours, turning the ribs after 45 minutes.
Remove ribs from pan, tent with aluminum foil.  Strain cooking liquid through a fine mesh sieve over a bowl.  Discard the solids.  Skim fat, discard (moose really doesn't have a lot of fat, but I left that direction in for the beef).  Return cooking liquid to pan.  Combine flour with 2 tbsp. butter, cook stirring often until it becomes a brown, nutty color.  Whisk in cooking liquid and let boil until slightly reduced and thickened.  Stir in vinegar.  Serve over ribs.

I served mine with mashed potatoes and a crisp salad on the side.  I have a new obsession.

December  18, 2011   Daylight 3 hours, 43 minutes, 49 seconds    Current Temp. 28º F


Friday, December 16, 2011

Espresso Martini - Drink of the Week



Ahhh, Friday and drink of the week.  I really look forward to coming home, petting the dogs and sitting by the fire with a relaxing drink.  Except, it is the holiday season and there are way too many things to do.  Presents to wrap, who am I kidding, presents to buy, cookies to bake, carols to sing...you get the picture.  So this week the drink of the week will help us with a little jolt of caffeine to keep us going.  The espresso martini is one of my go-to drinks.  It seems I always have the ingredients at home and can whip one up at a moments notice.
Actually, I have it on good authority that the big man himself drinks one before he makes his big trip!
Enjoy.
 Espresso Martini
Sandra Lee, Cocktail Time

1/4 cup Vanilla Vodka
1/3 cup Kahlua
1/4 tsp Espresso Powder
1/4 cup heavy cream (I usually use fat free half and half, but it is the holidays)
ice
put vodka, Kahlua and espresso powder in shaker, stir until powder is dissolved.  Add cream and ice, shake until very cold.  Strain into glass.


December 16, 2011       Daylight   3 hours,  46  minutes,  58 seconds       Current Temp.  7º F

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies and Christmas Traditions


Traditions keep us connected with each other and with memories that keep us going.  We have lots of holiday traditions, as I'm sure you do.  Some of our traditions we brought together when we got married, some we let go of as it didn't fit our new family, and some we stumbled upon as our family grew.  One of our traditions is a game we play with our Christmas Village.  
Dave got this for me our first Christmas together.  I love it.  There is a little school, a museum, a church with a steeple, several stores and a hotel and restaurant.  The people are all busy bustling about the village, stopping to talk to each other, singing Christmas carols, shopping or watching the puppet show.  The buildings all light up and snow blankets the streets and walkways.  There is this one little man, sitting by the Christmas tree minding his own business and peacefully reading a newspaper.
One day I  walked by and the man was gone, I searched high and low for him.  I found him sitting on the steps behind the church.  I put him back on his bench.  The next time I walked by he was missing again.  This time I found him on the roof of the restaurant, calmly reading his paper.  The game was on.  I placed him on the steps of the school house and for the last 12 years, that poor man has not been able to read his paper in peace.  He is found upside down, balanced on the top of the church's steeple, under the bridge, hidden in the gazebo and in every other possible place in our little village.  One of the boys covered him under a big pile of the fake snow, gathered all the villagers in a circle around the mound and had the little minister at the head as though they were having a funeral service (thanks Mason).  I don't know which of our boys started this game, but it has become a tradition.  Every friend that stops by has to look for the newspaper man and move him.  If he ever is on the bench, Dave will hide him so I don't feel sad and cry that we don't have kids home any more.  This is a tradition we all look forward to.


Chocolate crinkles are another Christmas tradition I look forward to.  I love these cookies!  One year when I was in college, in about a three month time period, I made these so many times, by boyfriend at the time asked me to stop!  I've learned some moderation, not much, but some.  So I save these cookies for this time of year.  They are fudgy with crisp edges, sweet and oh so good.  These are always one of the first to go on my cookie platter.  I hope you enjoy them with your holiday traditions.

Chocolate Crinkles
(I've made these so long, I don't know where the recipe came from)

4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. espresso powder
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1.5 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1.5 cups mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Add the unsweetened chocolate and butter to a microwave safe bowl.  Heat for 1 minute on high.  Stir. Heat for 15 seconds and stir, repeat this until chocolate and butter are melted.  Stir in espresso powder until smooth and let cool.
Combine eggs, sugar and vanilla.  Using an electric mixer beat until the mixture is light in color and thick, about 3 minutes.  Add the melted chocolate mixture and stir or mix on low speed until blended.  Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt.  All the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture and beat on low speed until blended.  Add the chocolate chips and stir with a wooden spoon.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 2 hours.  The dough should be firm enough to roll into balls.
Preheat the oven to 325ºF.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Sift the powdered sugar into a bowl.
Roll a rounded tablespoon of dough between your palms into a ball (I use my #40 scoop for this).  Roll the ball in the powdered sugar until completely coated.  Place on prepared cookie sheet.  Repeat for all cookie dough, spacing them about 3 inches apart.  Bake for 15 minutes until the cookies are puffed and cracked looking and feel firm when touched on the edges.  Let cookies cool on the baking sheets.
Makes about 30 cookies.

What are some of the holiday traditions you look forward to?

December 14,  2011,     Daylight  3 hours,  51 minutes,  21 seconds     Current Temp.  1 ºF

Monday, December 12, 2011

Chocolate dipped Coconut Macaroons


Chocolate dipped coconut macaroons
Cookies are a such a special treat.  They are small enough that you can have one everyday and not feel too guilty, they can be simple for everyday, or dressed up for a special occasion.  I love cookies.  I came across a world-wide cookie exchange and signed right up.  The idea is you submit your name and the organizer gives you three names to send a dozen cookies to, and gives your name to three secret people.  You mail your cookies by the set date and then you will receive three dozen cookies in the mail.  Cookies as a present in the mail, I'm all in.
I received my names and began planning my cookies.  I needed something special enough for the holidays, sturdy enough to mail from Alaska, and rich enough that they wouldn't dry out in the days it takes for mail to get to it's destination.  Coconut macaroons were good, chocolate dipped coconut macaroons were perfect!
I got my cookies in the mail well before the due date (one in a row!) and am anxiously awaiting my three dozen cookies via mail.  
Toasted coconut and sliced almonds
Chocolate Dipped Macaroon
Perfect Cookies, Fog City Press 2008

vegetable shortening for greasing pans
3.5 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 tsp. almond extract
2 large egg whites
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 pinch salt
4 oz. chopped semisweet chocolate (or chips)

Preheat oven to 350ºF Grease 2 large cookie sheets with the shortening.

Pour 1 1/2 cups of the coconut and all the almonds onto a rimmed baking sheet and mix well.  Toast them in the oven, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 12 minutes.  Immediately transfer the coconut-almond mixture to a large bowl to cool.  Leave the oven on.

To the bowl with the cooled coconut mixture, add the remaining 2 cups coconut, the condensed milk, and almond extract and mix well.  In a clean bowl, combine the egg whites, sugar and salt.  Using an electric mixer with clean beaters on high speed, beat until soft peaks form.  Gently fold the egg white mixture into the coconut mixture using a rubber spatula.

Using a large spoon, drop the dough into 2 inch mounds onto the prepared cookie sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart.  Bake until the cookies are golden brown, about 10 minutes, then transfer to wire racks and let cool completely.

Add the chocolate pieces to a heatproof bowl.  Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water, taking care that the bowl does not touch the water.  Heat, stirring frequently, until the chocolate is melted and smooth.  Remove from the heat.

Line 2 cookie sheets with waxed paper.  Dip the bottoms of the cookies into the chocolate coating and place, chocolate side down, on the lined baking sheets.  Refrigerate the cookies until the chocolate is set.  Store in an airtight container at cool room temperature.
Makes 18 cookies

Tips:
Next time I make these I'll make them smaller.  I used a #40 scoop and packed it very full and got exactly 18 cookies (like the recipe said).  But these cookies are rich and a smaller bite would be better, in my opinion.

I put the pans outside to cool (remember it is really cold here) before I dipped the cookies in chocolate.  The chocolate set a little quicker and it didn't run all over the pans.

I melted the chocolate in the microwave.  One minute on high, stir then 15 seconds and stir - repeat the 15 seconds and stir a couple of times until the chocolate was smooth and melted.

My first secret cookie exchange pkg.  Yummy cookies with a slight licorice flavor
Can't wait to see the recipe on: http://runningandcupcakes.blogspot.com/
Thank you Samantha.

December 12, 2011       Daylight  3 hours,   56 minutes,  55 seconds       Current Temp.  29 ºF



Sunday, December 11, 2011

Girl's Night Out - Bobby's Restaurant

We've been through a lot together, and most of it was your fault. Friendship/A collection of wit and wisdom.
A good glass of wine to get the conversation rolling.
Once a month I meet with 5 friends of mine.  We have dinner, catch up on news/gossip and fortify ourselves with each other's company to keep us going for another month.  We meet last week. We heard about weddings, vacations past and vacations to come and company dinners to make.  I love our nights out and can't wait for the next one in January.

This month we met at Bobby's Downtown, a Greek restaurant.  The restaurant was quiet enough we could hear each other, but not so quiet that we couldn't laugh and carry on and worry about the other diners.  Our server was friendly, fast and took very good care of us. The food was excellent.
Mussels in tomato broth

One of the silly things we do is get a gift for everyone that starts with the letter of the month.  This month I received Dijon mustard, a decoupage ornament, a book of drinks, a merry doorway announcement, decorative napkins, a book on friendship,  and Wild Alaska Women cards (o.k. they don't start with D, but they are very cool).  There is something very comforting and secure meeting with friends that "get" you.
Baklava for dessert
Friendship is when people know all about you but like you anyway.

December 11, 2011   Daylight  4 hours,  2 minutes, 0 seconds     Current Temp.  26º F

Friday, December 9, 2011

Pear-tini and the 12 Days of Christmas

I hung up a Christmas quilt at work today.  Really, I cheated, I hung up the top of a Christmas quilt I made 7 years ago and have never gotten around to finishing it.  It is the 12 days of Christmas and it got me to thinking about that poor person who received those gifts  Really, can you imagine having to clean up after all those birds, then having to feed the dancers, pipers, maids and drummers?  As for myself, I'm hoping for a new camera and maybe the quality of my pictures will improve (but don't hold your breath, I'm sure it's not the camera).
So, in the spirit of the 12 days of Christmas poem/song the drink of the week uses pear puree.  What else would you do with that crowd at your house and a pear tree in the way?  Remember to enjoy in moderation and don't get any silly ideas about Christmas gifts.

Pear-tini
from Sandra Lee, Cocktail Time

1.5 oz tequila
1 oz. pear puree* or pear juice
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
3/4 oz. simple syrup
ice cubes


Place all ingredients in a shaker with ice.  Shake until very cold.  Strain into martini glass.  Enjoy.
*To make pear puree, use very ripe pears, core and blend in blender until smooth.


December 8, 2011   Daylight  4 hours,  7 minutes,  14 seconds     Current Temp.  20 ºF

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Nutella filled Cookie Kisses



Nutella, just hearing the word makes me salivate like one of Pavlov's dogs! Adding Nutella makes anything better - toast, bagels, crepes,  wood chips....
These are cookies I made to take to a cookie exchange.  They are butter cookies filled with Nutella.  The cookies are quick, easy and adding the Nutella makes them special.  I put them in little candy wrappers and set them on a plate to serve.
Then, the cookie exchange was cancelled due to rain!  Now I'll have to eat all these cookies myself!
Let it rain.


Nutella filled Cookie Kisses
adapted from Perfect Cookies, Fog City Press 2008

Makes 24 cookies
1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
Nutella

Combine butter with sugar and salt.  beat until light and fluffy.  Add vanilla, beat until incorporated.  Add the flour and beat on low speed just until smooth and well blended.  Cover bowl and refrigerate dough until firm, about 1 hour or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350º F.
Scoop up teaspoonfuls of the dough (I used my #80 scoop) and roll into balls.  Place on ungreased cookie sheets about 1 inch apart.  Bake until the cookies are firm but not browned 10-12 minutes.  Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely.
Spread Nutella on one flat side of cookie, place the bottom of second cookie against the Nutella, lining up edges sandwich style.  Repeat to make the sandwiches with the remaining cookies and Nutella.

Tips:
These get big really fast, make the cookies on the smaller side, plus then you taste the Nutella more.
Place sandwich cookies in paper candy cups or paper mini muffin cups to serve.
Try not to eat all the left-over Nutella


December 7, 2011     Daylight  4 hours, 15 minutes, 18seconds      Current Temp.  17ºF

Monday, December 5, 2011

When life give you lemons, make meatball subs



Sunday was scheduled to be a very busy day.  I got up early, made cookies for a cookies exchange I was going to at 2:00, then meatballs for a celebration we were headed to at 4:00.  I had planned to post about the meatballs, made with ground moose, and how easy it was to make a big batch and freeze some for those nights I was running late at work or came home and just didn't feel like putting something together.  And then the rain started....
As I mentioned last week we have a Chinook blowing through Fairbanks.  The temperature is about 40º F above.  Now, that might seem wonderful, but to an environment that has been frozen at -40º F for the entire month of November, 40º F above is really not a gift.  First, the water that lands on the roads freezes into a solid sheet of ice, it can get inches thick, and next week when the temperature drops back to 20º F below or so there is no way to get the ice off.  We just have to wait for it to slowly evaporate and wear off with use.  Salt or solvents don't work at those temperatures.  Also, we lose our snow cover.  The snow really acts like a blanket for the ground and all the underground water pipes and such.  Without the cover water pipes freeze, septics freeze and back up, trust me it isn't a pretty picture.  There is also the issue with wildlife and their use of the snow to bed in for warmth and protection.  So, rain in December in Fairbanks is not a good thing.
As a result, both my parties were cancelled.  Now I have meatballs and cookies for dinner.
I had put a sweet barbeque sauce on the meatballs so I made an easy baguette to have with them.  We cut the baguettes in half, filled them with meatballs and watched the football game on t.v.  It was wonderful found time in a busy weekend.
I wonder how long it will rain?

Moose Meatballs

1 lb. ground moose (you can use beef)
1/2 lb. moose sausage (you can use pork)
1 Tbsp. olive oil (moose is very lean, omit if using beef)
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2 or 3 cloves minced garlic
1 small onion grated
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup steak sauce
1 tsp. oregano

Mix all ingredients together.  Mixing well without compacting the meat.  Shape into balls (I like small meatballs so I use a #80 scoop).  Place on greased baking sheet and bake at 400º F for 20 minutes or until centers are cooked completely through.  Let cool and use or separate into portions and freeze.  We use these in spaghetti sauce, stroganoff sauce, barbeque sauce, and spicy tomato sauce for sandwiches.
The second pan of meatballs waiting for the oven.


Sweet Barbeque Sauce
1 cup prepared barbeque sauce
1/2 cup apple cider
1/4 cup spicy brown mustard

Mix all together, pour over meatballs.

Tips:
Everyone asks for these.  I take them a lot.  I put them in a  crock pot and keep them warm on low.  To serve, place single meatballs on a spoon then a platter or fill a bowl and put decorated toothpicks in several so people can take a few.  Refill the plate often so the meatballs are served hot.

December 5, 2011     Daylight  4 hours, 24 minutes, 12 seconds     Current Temp. 28º F

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Barbeque and Bird Feeders



My neighbor has homing pigeons.  The only problem is they like my home, or to be more specific, my bird feeder more than they like their own home. They have taken over my bird feeder.  My husband, Dave, decided we wouldn't fill the feeder and the pigeons would go away.  He was concerned about the cost of the shelled sunflower seed hearts I like to put out for the wild birds.  I, on the other hand, love watching the wild birds come and go and the cost of some seed wasn't going to stop me.
I wanted a bird feeder for a couple of years, I even bought one and it sat in the pantry for about 6 months.  One day my brother-in-law screwed it to the fence for me. Dave was not too happy, who knows why, something about a mess on the fence I had him put in a couple of years ago.
I love watching the birds come and go.  We get Black Capped Chickadees and Red Poles and now pigeons.  I am not happy.  The pigeons make a mess all over that fence Dave worked so hard to put in, they eat all the seed and scare the little birds away.  Dave was ready to take the feeder down when my brilliant friend, Nancy, suggested he build a cage around the feeder so the little birds can get to it, but the big birds could not.  Dave was ecstatic he had, yet another, project!  Now, had I suggested this, he would have ignored me, but because Nancy suggested it, he built it.  He built a frame from 1x1s and then stapled garden fencing around it and on the bottom.  The top opens up with hinges so I can refill the feeder.  It works like a charm!

The pigeons can't get in, but the little birds can come and go as they please!
As a reward I made pulled pork.  A little taste of summer for us at -30ºF.  It is such an easy recipe, everything goes into the crockpot, you turn it on low and leave it for 8 to 10 hours.  Dave was pretty happy when he got home.  It warmed him up enough to carry in wood for the woodstove  while I thought of the next project...

Memphis-Style BBQ Pork Shoulder
adapted from  Sandra Lee Semi-homemade, Grilling 2006

3.5 lbs. pork shoulder roast
1/4 cup steak rub
1 Tablespoon dry mustard
1 cup apple cider 
1/2 cup whiskey

Mix steak rub and dry mustard, rub all over pork roast and let cure in refrigerator 1 hour.  Place meat in slow cooker, pour apple cider and whiskey over pork.  Cook on low 8 to 10 hours.

Remove meat from slow cooker, on cutting board placed on top of a cookie sheet, shred meat, removing extra fat.  Place on buns or Texas style toast and top with sauce.

BBQ Sauce
2 cups bottled barbeque sauce
1 cup Pepsi
1/2 cup yellow mustard
1/2 cup steak sauce
Mix together and warm in saucepan.  Serve extra sauce on the side.

O.K., so I'm going to tell on myself.  I made this for Dave, it was very good.  I was copying down the recipe on the blog and I came to the ingredient of 1 cup apple cider.  When I made the pork roast I added 1 cup apple cider VINEGAR.  Why I thought I read vinegar I'll never know.  So this last time I made it I cooked it in 1 cup vinegar and 1/2 cup whiskey!  It was still good, but one of those things I'll never forget (or do again) and one of those things I'll never live down.

December 4, 2011   Daylight 4  hours,  28 minutes,  55 seconds     Current Temp. 38ºF

Friday, December 2, 2011

Chinook Winds - Drink of the Week




Fairbanks went from 20 below zero to 10 above zero in the matter of hours.  We got a Chinook, a warm wind from the south, and the temperature rose by 30 degrees literally overnight9right now we are 45 degrees warmer than Monday).  It is amazing how much easier things are above zero.  The house is warmer, you can breath outside without a scarf, you don't even need a coat! (well, almost) So, we are celebrating with a drink of the week that is cool but will warm you up from the inside out.

Chinook Winds
for 1 drink
1.5 oz. vanilla vodka
1 oz peppermint schnapps
1 Tbsp. heavy cream or a little more to taste ( I use fat free half and half and feel guilt free!)
ice
mini candy cane for garnish

Add all ingredients except candy canes to drink shaker.  Shake well, until very cold.  Strain into glass, garnish with candy cane.

For 6 drinks
9 oz. vanilla vodka
6 oz. peppermint schnapps
3 oz. heavy cream - or substitute
ice
6 mini candy canes for garnish
Fill pitcher with ice, add vodka, schnapps and cream.  Stir very well, strain into glasses and garnish with candy canes.

And remember, the roads are very slick when a Chinook blows through.  Never drink and drive.
Enjoy

December 2, 2011   Daylight  4 hours,  38 minutes,  52 seconds     Current Temp.  25 ºF