Monday, April 30, 2012

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries


Spring is full of all kinds of celebrations.  Graduations, someone else won all the money for the Ice Classic, Administrative Assistants' Day, Mother's Day, wedding showers, baby showers...the list goes on.  May is a busy month: Gifts from the Garden month, Borderline Personality Disorder Month (my favorite), National Vinegar Month, React Month and Potatoes and Limes Month.  Then we have all the weeks, like Be Kind to Animals Week, Children's Mental Health Week, National Hug Holiday Week, National Raisin Week, and Old Time Player Piano Week. Then there are the days, like National Recess Day (which is kinda funny because it is May 18 and school is already out for the summer in Fairbanks), World Turtle Day, Brother Day, Armed Forces Day, Artichoke Day and Straw Hat Day.   Trust me, I found them on the internet so it must be true!(See the holiday list for yourself)
For Administrative Assistant's Day I was stuck.  I don't have an Administrative Assistant but I borrow other peoples.  So, in the department my office is in I am always asking that secretary (I know that is not P.C. but it is easier to type "secretary" than "administrative assistant") for help or how to do or find something.  Then there is the secretary that is in charge of making sure I get paid (I have to be nice to her) and then my bosses secretary that does all my ordering, scheduling rooms, and a million other things for me and still do her very busy real job!  So you see, I really needed to get or do something for them.
I put it off so long until it was Thursday afternoon and I was panicked!  I do some great thinking at the last minute.  I thought of this little gift (really I'm sure I stole it from Pinterest or someone else's blog, but don't remember so I'm taking full credit for this).
I dashed to the grocery store, got three vases, three containers of strawberries,  long skewers, good dark chocolate, heavy cream, some baby's breath and some green leaves.  I was set.  I melted the chocolate in the microwave, added a little cream, dipped the strawberries, put them on the skewers and made my own version of the edible arrangement.  I'm sure if I had any talent the arrangements would have looked a lot better and next time I'll get some of that green florist foam for the bottom of the vases.  I tried to use those glass pebble things and it really didn't help, especially on the drive to work.  I delivered the strawberry arrangements and everyone was really happy (or polite enough to act that way).  I'm thinking I might open a little side business now, taking orders for Mother's Day...


Chocolate dipped Strawberries

16 oz. good dark chocolate, chopped or in chips
2 Tbsp. heavy cream
1 lb. fresh strawberries with tops intact

For Arrangement
long wooden skewers
green florist foam
baby's breath
greenery leaves

Wash strawberries, lay on sheet pans lined with absorbent cloth or paper towels.  Dry completely, I let mine sit out for an hour or so to be sure. 
Melt chocolate on a double boiler or in a microwave. (I use a microwave.  Heat for 30 seconds, stir, heat again, stir again until smooth and completely melted).  Add heavy cream and stir until completely incorporated.  You may need to warm again (about 15 seconds in the microwave).  Gently pull the green leaves up and use as a holder.  Dip strawberries in chocolate mixture, let excess drip off.  If putting on a plate, I usually scrap the back side of the strawberry on the edge of the bowl to remove extra chocolate and lay on a cool, dry, wax paper lined sheet pan, for chocolate on berries to harden.  If I'm putting them on a skewer, I scrape just the very bottom tip where I put the skewer in and carefully place the skewer upright in a jar or vase.  Let chocolate cool and harden. Cut florist foam to fit very snugly in bottom of vase.   Arrange strawberries in vase by pushing bottom of skewer into foam.  Add baby's breath and greenery. 

April 30, 2012     Daylight  17 hours,  0 minutes,  37 seconds     Current Temp.  45 ºF

Friday, April 27, 2012

Spiders and Drink of the Week


We ALL have fears, some greater than others.  I do believe I am in touch with my ancestral beings because one of my biggest fears is spiders.  I don't care if they are the size of a dust speck or the size of a quarter, I AM SO FREAKED OUT I can't even think straight.  I mean, squeal like a little girl and cry, kind of freaked out. Last Halloween, one of the departments in our building decorated their hall with spider webs and giant spiders and I could not walk down that hall.  I told myself I was bigger than those fake, paper spiders on the wall and I could use the bathroom past the spiders, but I was not and ended up taking the stairs up to the next floor's bathroom for the whole month of October. And so begins the story of how my husband won't sit with me in church anymore.
We were at one of the early services on Easter (yes, it has taken me a while to be able to relive this moment) and during a hymn, my husband stops and gazes off to his right.  I thought he might be having a seizure and so I said his name.  He didn't respond, so I said his name again, no response, I said it a little louder, he turned to me and gave me that "stop yelling in church" look so I looked back down at my hymnal and continued on with the service.
A couple minutes later we sat down and he leaned into me to whisper something so I leaned into him, took my eyes off my hymnal and they rested on this lovely green shirt the man in front of me was wearing.  It was a deep green and in the center of the shoulder placket was A SPIDER!  It was the size of a quarter (I'm not exaggerating, you can ask my husband).  Just as I saw it, my husband saw it and saw me see it.  He quietly said, "I'm going to brush this off, so you need to move."  I was up in an instant to move to the end of the row we were sitting in.  When I moved, the spider moved, I screeched (yes, in the middle of the service) and ran to the end of the row, the spider jumped and hit the bald head of the man he was on, fell to his arm and got brushed onto the floor.  EVERYONE on my side of the church heard me scream, saw the commotion and figured out what happened.  They all quietly laughed at my reaction, and service went on.  The spider was never found, and my husband had to move down the row to sit with me, I was so distracted the rest of the service, I don't know what happened after those women got to the tomb and found the stone rolled away (o.k., that was my niece's joke but I stole it)!  The bottom line is, there is still a spider on that side of the church and I will never be able to sit there again.  I am such a creature of habit, I've sat in those seats for as long as that church has been open and now what am I going to do? 
Come to find out, when I thought my husband was having a seizure (remember that part) he was watching the spider walk across the aisle and was going to step on it and save me, but he lost sight of it when I distracted him.
The only thing to do after such a traumatic experience is to drink. And while I had a different drink that day (we had Anita's green drink on Easter) I bring you another delicious option, the Pimm's Cup. I found this while cruising through TasteSpotting one day and remembered what a cool refreshing drink this is, perfect for summer.  Now, we aren't in summer here yet, we are closer and I'm sure everyone in the states is having warmer weather than we are about now and could use a refreshing drink.  This came from the blog Apricosa (find link here).


Pimm's Cup 
Makes 1 serving 
Adapted from Gourmet, August 1957

1.5 fluid oz. (44 ml/1 jigger) chilled Pimm’s No. 1
12 fluid oz. (354 ml) chilled diet Ginger ale
4 ice cubes
1 strip cucumber
1 slice lemon, optional
1 sprig mint, optional

Pour Pimm's No. 1 and chilled ginger ale into a double old-fashioned glass (16 oz. capacity).  Garnish with ice cubes, cucumber, lemon, and/or mint.  Enjoy!

April 27, 2012     Daylight  16 hours, 39 minutes,  39 seconds     Current Temp.  48 ºF

Monday, April 23, 2012

Chocolate Silk Torte and the Nenana Ice Classic

Spring in Fairbanks goes fast.  Once is warms up the snow really starts to melt.  The rivers start to flow, the geese are in town and we are outside starting the yard work.  One very fun part of Spring is the Nenana Ice Classic.  This is a guessing game where you purchase tickets and each ticket is a guess. A tripod is set up on the Tanana River and hooked up to a clock on the bank.  When the tripod moves enough down river the clock is triggered to stop and the person closest to guessing the time wins.  This year the winner or winners have a jackpot of $338,062.
This year, for our 13th anniversary, my husband gifted me 13 tickets.  I have my guesses entered and I'm ready to win.
I'm not exactly sure what I'll do with all that money, but we do have a wedding in July!
I'm big on celebrating, so I began practice celebrating with this chocolate silk torte.  We already had a few things to celebrate by the end of the week, it was Friday, my friend is starting a new job on Monday and the snow is really melting.  What a perfect way to celebrate than with the chocolate silk torte I saw on Galley Gourmet (see link here).  This torte is chocolaty, rich and with the raspberries, over the top.  It was so good and so easy to make.  I'll be making this again when I win the Ice Classic.  It is very rich so this torte serves a lot of people.  I'll need that once I win. I think I'll have a few extra friends!
What would you do if you won the jackpot?


French Silk Torte
serves 12-16
from Galley Gourmet

For the Crust
3/4 cup pecans, toasted in a 300º F oven for 20 minutes
1 cup walnuts, toasted in a 300º F oven for 20 minutes
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
8 Tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
Pinch of Kosher salt

For the Filling
1 1/4 pounds semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
12 Tablespoons ( 6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
6 extra large eggs
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Topping
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 pts. raspberries

For the Crust
Line a 9-inch springform pan with a round of parchment paper; set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the pecans, walnuts, and brown sugar and pulse until the nuts are coarsely chopped.  Pour the nut mixture into a medium bowl, add the butter and salt, and stir until the nuts are evenly moistened.  Press the nut mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until set.

For the Filling
Melt the chocolate and espresso in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  While the chocolate is melting, combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute.  Switch to the whip attachment and add the eggs, two at a time, mixing well after each addition; scrape down the sides of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium-high and whip until well blended, about 2 minutes (the mixture will look curdled).

Remove the melted chocolate from the heat and stir until smooth and warm but not hot.  With the mixer on low, add the chocolate to the egg mixture. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix on low speed until the chocolate is fully incorporated.  Add the cream and vanilla and mix until blended.  Spread the filling over the crust and refrigerate until firm, about 3 hours.  The torte can be made and refrigerated 2 days in advance.

For the Topping
In a chilled bowl, whisk together the cream and sugar until soft peaks form.  Using an off-set spatula, spread the topping over the chilled filling top with rows of raspberries (torte can be refrigerated for up to 2 hours at this point).  When ready to serve, run a hot, dry knife around the sides of the pan to loosen the torte, remove the pan sides and transfer the torte to a serving platter.  Slice the torte with a hot, dry knife and serve chilled.  Enjoy!

April 23, 2012     Daylight  16 hours, 11 minutes,  49 seconds     Current Temp.  48 ºF

Friday, April 20, 2012

Spring Snow Break up


I love Spring, but it is a little difficult in Fairbanks.  People say we don't really get a spring, we get break-up.  That is the time when everything melts, the trash that has accumulated all winter starts to peek out of the snow, the roads are always wet in the afternoons so your car is really dirty and the roads are all frozen over in the morning so you have to be very careful.  Then, suddenly, it is Summer.  Fairbanks has three seasons, Winter, Break-Up and Summer.
April is a pretty dirty looking month.  The snow is brown and dirty as it melts, the cars are dirty from the wet streets, trash is along the roadways.  The only nice thing is we are over 15 hours of daylight, gaining about 7 minutes of daylight every day, and it is getting warmer.  Mid May our Borough has a clean up day and everyone gets out and spends some time cleaning up trash along the roads, it really is an uplifting sight.  We do have to be careful though, some years they have had to postpone clean up day because it is snowing too hard.
My husband is really ready for the snow to be gone.  He spends his early evenings after work moving the snow around our yard so it will melt faster.  In the front, he gets on the 4-wheeler and pushes the snow around with the plow blade.

In the back he gets the snow blower and blows the snow around to the pavers where it will melt faster.
I was telling my friend, Donna, how people drive by and give him funny looks.  She said her husband and son do the same thing, so maybe it is just a boy thing?  We do have the first green lawn in the neighborhood and a good looking lawn at that (more on that later).  So I think I'll sit on the deck with the drink of the week and try not to think about his obsessive behavior (like I don't have any of my own).

This drink of the week is about the color of our spring snow...not white, not really brown.  But there is something hopeful about spring snow here, like it looks so bad summer has to be around the corner.  A couple of these drinks and you won't care if summer is around the corner or not!
Enjoy safely.


Spring Snow
2 shots half and half
1 shot sambuca
1 shot kahlua
1 shot Irish cream

Mix all ingredients in a glass with ice.  Stir well. 
Makes one drink.


April 20, 2011     Daylight  15 hours, 51 minutes, 0 seconds     Current Temp.  48ºF

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Orange-Pistachio Wild Rice Salad


Wednesday soup lunch has morphed into Wednesday salad lunch.  It was our turn for salad in my office.  I made a bright, citrusy  rice salad with pecans.  I love the texture of wild rice and the addition of pistachios is wonderful.  I add salted pistachios and really enjoy the sweet from the orange segments and the orange dressing with the salty crunch of the nuts.  I roasted a salmon fillet with orange juice and a little soy and ginger to go along with it.  It was a good lunch.

 

Ingredients
adapted from Ellie Krieger, The Food You Crave (2008)
  • 2/3 cup brown rice
  • 2/3 cup wild rice
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 orange, peel and pith removed, segmented and sliced (about 2/3 cup)
  • 10 large basil leaves, sliced into ribbons (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion
  • 3 tablespoons chopped pistachios, lightly toasted
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
For the dressing:
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Directions
Combine brown rice, wild rice and chicken broth in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until all water is evaporated and rice is fully cooked, about 45 to 55 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely.
When rice is cool, add orange slices, basil, red onion, pistachios and orange zest; mix to incorporate.

For the dressing:
Combine the red wine vinegar, olive oil, orange juice, mustard, honey and salt in a metal bowl and whisk to incorporate.
Pour over rice mixture and toss to incorporate.

April 18, 2012     Daylight  15 hours,  37 minutes,  11 seconds     Current Temp.  44 ºF

Monday, April 16, 2012

Dried Cherry, Chocolate chip and Oatmeal Cookies and Welcoming the Geese


One sure sign of the coming of spring in Fairbanks is the arrival of the geese.  We all look forward to this and our city even has a "Goose Watch" contest where you guess the day and time the first goose lands at Creamer's Field, our migratory waterfowl wildlife refuge (learn more here).  Each spring a volunteer group plows the field and lays grain for the birds to eat.  The whole town stops by to check out the birds.  We often get ice cream at Hot Licks (them opening on College Rd. is another spring event I look forward to) and drive to the viewing area for Creamer's, eat our ice cream and watch the birds.
Two geese at a grain pile, very close to the fence that separates the birds from the people.

Monday morning there was a report of one goose at the field.  I had to drive by to see if there was any truth to that rumor.  It usually starts slow, with just a couple of geese, but then as more arrive, the field is full.  Geese, Sandhill Cranes, and ducks steal the show, but other small birds are around too. One of the most exciting things for me is that our house is on the goose flight path.  In the mornings, around 5:00 or so, geese fly over my house on the way to Creamer's.  I love waking up to the sound of them flying by.
Look closely, swans, ducks and geese are all on the field.

 There are several paths to walk on, around the fields or through a Boreal forest.  Creamer's Field is one of my favorite places to visit.  When I was teaching I would take my class there every year, catch dragonfly larva for observations before releasing them safely back into the water to eat the mosquito larva, walk the old farm road and check out the bird banding stations.
Creamer's Dairy buildings in the background.  Plowed fields to welcome birds in front.

Because Spring is such a busy time of the year, I don't always get things done at home that I want to (like cleaning, cooking, cleaning and then there is cleaning).  I like to make a batch of cookies, scoop them into individual cookie balls and then freeze them.  This way I can take 3 or 6 or 12 cookies out and bake what I need for a snack or to take to work. I don't have time to make cookies every day but I still need my sweet tooth fix and I haven't met a cookie I didn't like.   I love warm cookies and a walk through Creamer's, I do believe this is what heaven will be like.
Cookie dough scooped and headed to the freezer.  Once froze they go into a ziplock baggie.
Dried Cherry and Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
adapted from the lid of my oatmeal box

1/2 lb. (2 sticks) butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar (I like to use dark brown sugar)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
3 cups old fashioned oatmeal
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350º F.  Beat together butter and sugars until creamy.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Combine both flours, baking soda, cinnamon and salt, mix well.  Add flour mixture to creamed butter and mix well.  Stir in oats, cherries and chocolate chips, mix well.  Scoop onto ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool on cookie sheet 1 minute then move to wire rack.  Makes about 4 dozen.
 To freeze, follow directions to scooping.  Scoop onto parchment lined cookie sheet.  Freeze until solid, move to ziplock baggie and keep in freezer.  Remove number cookies you want to bake, bake in 350º F oven for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown, there is no need to thaw cookies before baking.

April 16, 2012     Daylight  15 hours,  23 minutes,  24 seconds     Current Temp.  48ºF


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Frog on a Lilly Pad


When I was a kid, my grandpa and grandma Stejer would visit every October.  Grandma would make us breakfast of toast with a hole in the center, filled with an egg and call it Toad in the Hole.  I came across this recipe and named it Frog on a Lilly Pad.
It is getting warmer here and close to what we call Spring, and time to eat a little lighter.  Dave only likes red meat so chicken and fish make a rare appearance on our dinner table and don't even think about going meatless! (unless I make something for him and something different for myself).  I have been trying to fix an entree salad at least one time a week and add just a little meat, or sneak in shrimp or some halibut (Dave says he only likes it fried).  While this isn't really a light recipe with the puff pastry and the use of a whole egg, it is something different than moose, and what a welcome change.  I think my Grandma Stejer would be proud.
These were really easy, and something you can make a lot of at the same time, so perfect for a brunch.  Plus they hold the heat well, and self serving these from a buffet line would be easy.  You could make these with two egg whites instead of the whole egg, but after the puff pastry, why not go for it?

Frog on a Lilly Pad
Serves 4
adapted from Food Network, April 2012
All-purpose flour, for dusting
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (half of a 17-to-18-ounce package), thawed
  • 2 strips bacon
  • 4 rounds Canadian bacon
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded swiss cheese
  • 3 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese
  • 4 large eggs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 8 cups baby greens

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry into a 12-inch square, then cut into 4 equal squares. Slightly fold and pinch the edges of each square to form 4 round tart shells. Transfer to the prepared baking sheets and prick all over with a fork. Bake until golden, 8 to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a medium skillet over medium heat, turning, until crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain, then crumble.
Let the tart shells cool slightly on the baking sheets. If the centers are very puffy, prick with a fork to deflate. Place one piece of Canadian bacon in each shell, sprinkle evenly with the swiss and parmesan. Make a shallow well in the cheese in the center of each tart and crack an egg into each; season with salt and pepper. Top with the bacon, then return to the oven and bake until the egg whites are set, 10 to 15 minutes (I like my egg hard so I left them in a full 15 minutes).
Place 2 cups of greens on each plate, top with egg pastry, serve warm.
April 12. 2012     Daylight  14 hours,  53 minutes,  11 seconds     Current Temp. 34 ºF

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

S'Mores, s'more ways


To say my husband is obsessed with fire is an understatement.  We have a fire in the wood stove all winter and he builds a fire in the outdoor fire pit all year.  In the spring, through the summer and into the fall he usually invites the boys from across the street and/or the backdoor neighbor's twins.  He is so happy when it is warm enough to invite the neighbor kids over for s'mores ( I think is helps make up for the kid empty house we live in now).  So, starting around March, we always have makings for s'mores.  We have several favorites and have tried a few misses.
S'More supplies ready for the choosing.

We have tried several options for the chocolate.  I LOVE Nutella s'mores.  We also like using peppermint patties for the chocolate and thin mint Girl Scout Cookies for the chocolate and the graham crackers.  In a pinch we have used marshmallow cream, but that is not really fun (you can't really roast cream on a stick).  The strawberry marshmallows are fun, so are peeps bunnies and chicks, the bitterness of the burnt sugar on the outside of the peeps adds a nice counter balance to all the sweet in the s'more.  And the giant marshmallows are just too much; too much sweet, too much goo and too much good.  We usually try to stick with graham crackers, but the occasional cookie slips in, thin mints, sugar cookies, and chocolate chip cookies have all made an appearance.  We have also pulled back on side of a banana, stuffed it with chocolate and mini marshmallows, pulled the peel back up and roasted the banana.  Once it is warm you eat it with a spoon...sooo good.
Peeps catch fire easily.  Notice the short sleeves and the pile of snow in the back.  Those are Alaskan boys!

We have already had several s'more making sessions at our house this spring.  The neighbor's boys came over, the twins once with the boys and once with some friends before they went to a movie.  Dave is always happy to oblige with a fire and the pantry is stocked with the makings.  Next time you are close by, stop in for a drink of the week and a s'more!  We'd be happy to see you.
Pink Peep, Samoa cookie and potato chip s'more
Strawberry marshmallow, chocolate and potato chip s'more

S'Mores
like you really need a recipe!

graham crackers, cookies, bananas, sturdy potato chips (don't knock it until you try it)
chocolate bars, peppermint patties, nutella, mini chocolate chips,
marshmallows, peeps

Roast marshmallows, warm two graham crackers and some chocolate on the edge of the fire (or the lid of the fire pit), when marshmallow is toasty warm and soft (or flaming, your choice) squish between the chocolate and graham crackers.  Enjoy.

April 10, 2012     Daylight  14 hours,  39 minutes,  31 seconds     Current Temp. 40ºF

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Blueberry Muffins - Crazy Cooking Challenge


This month's Crazy Cooking Challenge was Blueberry Muffins, and not a month too soon.  I had just enough blueberries from last fall's berry picking to make one batch, so it had to be a good recipe.  I chose one from Brown Eyed Baker.  I have never gone wrong with one of her recipes.  In the fall I do Muffin Mondays and bake muffins every Monday morning, I figure we need a sweet way to start the workweek.  This recipe is definitely going to be added to the Muffin Monday rotation.  The muffins are wonderful.  I like that slightly crunchy topping on my muffins, so I added a topping to these.

Photobucket                                                  
These were the perfect snack after Dave spent an afternoon shoveling snow.  We keep getting more snow and it has to be moved.  Our backdoor neighbor moved here from California and this is his first winter in Alaska.  He asked if the snow would all be gone by fall!  I think he is worried he will never see green grass again.  The snow is so high my dog Lilly and the neighbor's dog can visit over the fence, no big deal until you realize our fence is 6 feet tall!

Blueberry Muffins
adapted from Brown Eyed Baker(find her recipe here)

Yield: 12 muffins
Prep Time: 20 minutes | Bake Time: 25 to 30 minutes

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1¼ cups sour cream
1½ cups frozen or fresh blueberries (if frozen leave them frozen to add to the batter)

Topping:
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F*. Grease a standard 12-cup muffin tin (or line with paper liners) and set aside.
2. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl until combined. Whisk the egg in a separate medium bowl until well-combined and light-colored, about 20 seconds. Add the sugar and whisk vigorously until thick, about 30 seconds. Add the melted butter in 2 or 3 additions, whisking to combine after each addition. Add the sour cream in 2 additions, whisking just to combine.
3. Add the berries to the dry ingredients and gently toss just to combine. Add the sour cream mixture and fold with a rubber spatula until the batter comes together and the berries are evenly distributed, 25 to 30 seconds. Small spots of flour may remain and the batter will be very thick. Do not over-mix.
4. Using a large spoon or a cookie scoop sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, divide the batter amount the muffin cups. Generously sprinkle topping on batter.  Bake until the muffins are light golden brown and a toothpick or thin knife inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pan from front to back halfway through the baking time. Immediately remove muffins to a wire rack and cool for at least 5 minutes. Serve immediately or at room temperature. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature.

April 7, 2012     Daylight  14 hours,  21 minutes,  49 seconds     Current Temp. 30ºF




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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Anita's Green Drink


We had this drink on St. Patrick's day, and because of the spring green color, we'll have it for Easter too.  My friend Anita gave me the recipe, it is a drink she and her sisters drank on one of their all sister get-aways (I think she has 5).  So, I was going to talk about how wonderful it would be to have so many sisters to grow up with, share clothes with, fight with, and how nice it is they still all get together once in a while even though they live all over the country.  But then dinner happened...

We invited my 85 year old mother in law, June, over for St. Patrick's Day dinner.  She came, my brother in law came and two Ryans showed up at the last minute.  We had corned beef, bangers and mash and cabbage. For dessert we had carrot cake cupcakes to celebrate my husband's birthday from the day before and we had Anita's Green Drink.  Everyone showed up wearing green, June wore a new bright green jacket to celebrate the day.  We sat down to dinner and began to serve off the large platter in the center of the table.  I asked June if she would like a banger (sausage) and she said yes.  I picked up the sausage with rubber tipped tongs (can you see it coming?) and headed toward her plate.  Just before I started putting the sausage down, the greasy sausage slipped on the rubber ends of the tong and hit June right in the chest and rolled down her NEW green jacket and landed in her lap.  I could have crawled under the hard wood floor of the dinning room.  She plucked it off her lap and put it on her plate.  I offered her a sweatshirt and to wash it right away but she declined.  She wore the grease marked jacket all through dinner.
When we were about finished Dave made another round of Anita's Green Drink for both Ryans.  The first Ryan declined since he was driving, so Dave gave the second Ryan a double.  I asked June if she wanted more and Ryan offered her half his.  June took his glass and was going to pour half into her glass.  Did I mention June is 85?  And her hands are just a LITTLE shaky? So I told her I would pour it over the sink.  I quickly stood up, took both glasses out of her hands and walked over to the sink to pour the drink.  June was not happy.
"It's not like I was going to pour it on my shirt or anything." she stated loudly.
We all burst out laughing.  I don't know if she was being mean, or if she really was making a joke, but when we all laughed she did too so I am going with the joke.  I won't offer to serve her any food on Easter, but we will serve her a couple of Anita's Green Drinks and I'm sure I will have to relive the sausage incident a few times that day.

Anita's Green Drink
from my friend Anita

1/2 shot good Irish whiskey
1 shot crème de menthe
1 shot Bailey's Irish Cream
2 shots whole milk

Pour all ingredients into a shaker over ice.  Shake well and strain into a glass with ice. 

April 5, 2012     Daylight  14 hours,  5 minutes,  29 seconds     Current Temp.  24 ºF

Monday, April 2, 2012

French Onion Soup


I did really well with my Cooking Light Challenge.  My challenge was to fix 5 recipes from that particular magazine during the month of March.  I made 5 and I still had three days to spare!
The last recipe I made was French Onion Soup.  I made my own beef broth, which I had never done before, with beef ribs and bones and then caramelized the onions and made the soup.  It was delicious.

Last week was a pretty rough week, my dog Lilly went to the vet and had to spend the night (I know it was harder on me than her and I don't appreciate the vet laughing when I asked if I could sleep on the floor next to her kennel at the clinic), I started acupuncture (you lay there and let someone stick needles in you without making some sarcastic comments, the acupuncturist doesn't appreciate my sense of humor), and because of the needle thing I was rushed for salad lunch and a tea party at work. How unfair is that?  The French Onion Soup almost made up for all of it.  It is also nice to have a stockpile of beef broth in the freezer next the the chicken broth. 


French Onion Soup
 Adapted from Cooking Light, March 2012

Recipe Time

Hands On: 1 Hour, 20 Minutes
Total: 5 Hours, 39 Minutes


Stock:
  • 1 1/2 pounds meaty beef bones
  • 1 pound beef shanks
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped 
  • 1 medium onion, cut into wedges 
  • 3 quarts cold water
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 3 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  •  
  • Soup:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1 tablespoon butter 
  • 3 large onions, vertically sliced (about 13 cups) 
  • 1 1/8 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 12 (1/2-ounce) slices French bread baguette
  • 4 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded (about 1 cup, packed)

Preparation

  1. 1. Preheat oven to 450°.
  2. 2. To prepare stock, arrange first 5 ingredients in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake at 450° for 35 minutes or until browned. Scrape beef mixture and pan drippings into a large Dutch oven. Stir in 3 quarts cold water and next 4 ingredients (through bay leaf); bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, and simmer 2 1/2 hours, skimming surface as necessary. Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve lined with a double layer of cheesecloth over a bowl; discard solids. Wipe pan clean with paper towels.
  3. 3. To prepare soup, return Dutch oven to medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Melt butter in oil. Add sliced onion to pan; cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Partially cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt and ground pepper; cook, uncovered, until deep golden brown (about 35 minutes), stirring frequently. Add reserved stock and chopped thyme; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer until reduced to 8 cups (about 50 minutes). Stir in chives.
  4. 4. Preheat broiler to high.
  5. 5. Arrange bread slices in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan, and broil for 2 minutes or until toasted, turning after 1 minute. Ladle 1 1/3 cups soup into each of 6 broiler-safe soup bowls. Top each serving with 2 bread slices, and sprinkle evenly with cheese. Place soup bowls on jelly-roll pan, and broil for 4 minutes or until tops are golden brown and cheese bubbles.
 Tips:
I doubled the stock so I have some in my freezer now.  It doesn't take much longer, just a little extra time to reduce the stock for a good meaty taste.


April 2, 2011     Daylight  13 hours,  45 minutes,  8 seconds     Current Temp.  23ºF