Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pineapple Upside Down Mini Cakes

My beautiful niece, Nichole, had a birthday last week and she loves pineapple upside down cake.  I wanted to surprise her with a birthday treat and I found this fun recipe for individual cakes on Big Momma's Home Kitchen.  To make the cakes using pineapple rings, you need a large cupcake pan, if you don't have one, just use a regular cupcake pan and pineapple tidbits or trim the rings to fit the smaller pans.  I had the large pan, and I love the look of the pineapple ring on the top of the cake.  I made them in the morning, right before work, so they were still warm when I delivered them.  I think we should eat cake for breakfast more often than just our birthdays.

Cake Ingredients:
makes 6  large cupcakes or 8 regular cupcakes

2 eggs
2/3 C white sugar
4 Tbsp pineapple juice
2/3 C all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt


1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick or 4 Tbsp)
2/3 C brown sugar
1-can pineapple rings
6-maraschino cherries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray your muffin tins with non-stick cooking spray. 

In a mixing bowl, add eggs, white sugar, and pineapple juice.  Beat for 2 minutes.  In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add to the wet ingredients and turn mixer back on for 2 minutes. 

In a small sauce pan, melt the butter and add the brown sugar.  Stir on low heat for one minute.

Spoon a layer of the warm brown sugar mixture into the bottom of each muffin tin, then place a pineapple ring on top.  Add a cherry in the middle of each pineapple.    Pour cake mixture over to fill muffin tin 3/4 of the way full.  If you are using regular muffin tins, you will need to cut down the rings to fit or just use pineapple tidbits.

Bake jumbo cakes for 25 minutes.  Bake regular cakes for 20 minutes.  If you choose to make a large cake, bake for 22-25 minutes in a 10 inch cast iron skillet or a 10" spring form pan.  The cake is done with a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

  Remove from the oven.  Let cool in pan for 3 minutes.  Run a knife around the edge of each cake to help loosen in case it sticks a little.  Place a wire cooling rack on top, and quickly flip over on top of sheet tray to catch extra drippings.

For me too bake first thing in the morning takes a little organization.  I usually mix the dry ingredients together the night before, set out the eggs and butter and put a pan on the stove if I need to cook anything (and measure anything non-perishable into the pan).  That way I can make my coffee and preheat the oven, then finish the mixing process and enjoy a cup while something bakes.  I might get to work on time that day.

May 30, 2012     Daylight  20 hours,  24 minutes,  22 seconds     Current Temp. 58ºF

Monday, May 28, 2012

Ruckus in the Muckus and Mudslide Brownies

Layers of creamy rich topping, sweet marshmallows and dense chewy brownie studded with pecans and chocolate chips.

Summer time and the living is easy, or at least busy.  Fairbanks is always a busy town, but summer is especially busy.  It is like everyone knows we have a finite amount of time before the snow flies and things slow down because of the dark and cold (busy, but slow).  We have all kinds of walks and runs, bike races, hiking club, farmer's markets, holiday parades, and more events than any one person could attend but I'll try to showcase some of them this summer.
Before the race, everyone is ready!
Ruckus in the Muckus is a mud, obstacles , slip and slide obstacle course, Join the RUCKUS! Obstacle course mud run (5km, 2km) benefiting the Warriors in Transition Unit and Birch Hill Trail Maintenance Fund! Hosted by, a non-profit corporation who's mission is inspiring Alaskans to greatness teaching goal-setting and healthy lifestyles.

Several of the women I go to boot camp  with in the morning decided to make a team and enter the "fun."  I, on the other hand, had more sense and said I would go and take pictures!
The race started with an 18 inch crawl, then some running (it was a 5K).

A cool break from running with a pool of muddy water, then more running and finally a hill with hand ropes to climb up.  Kids did a 2K with one lap, adults did a 5K with two laps and a little more.
Torrey, our trainer, jumped in and swam across.  Keep in mind the water in the Fairbanks area comes out of the ground at about 34ºF and this pool was filled up only hours ago.  Brrr!

swimming across

Out of the chilly water and on with the run.
To end the fun, the finish line was a giant slip and slide.
I think everyone was glad when it was over! and glad they participated.

In honor of those who braved the cool day, cold weather and 5K run, I made Mudslide brownies.  They are rich, chocolaty and full of surprises with every bite.  These are total cheater brownies as they start with a dark chocolate brownie mix.  I like Ghirardelli dark chocolate, but use your favorite kind (I'm sure you could use your favorite from-scratch kind too).  These don't take long at all and are a delightful treat for after a tough run.

Mudslide Brownies
makes 16 brownies

1 18.8-20 oz pkg. dark chocolate brownie mix
2 large eggs
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
3 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
4 1/2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 1/4 cups sour cream
3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Spray a 13x9 inch baking pan with nonstick baking spray with flour.  Ina large bowl, combine brownie mix, eggs, 1/3 cup water, and 1/3 cup melted butter.  Using a wooden spoon, beat for 50 strokes.  Stir in coconut, chocolate chips, and pecans.  Spread into prepared pan.

Bake for 26-28 minutes or until set and firm to touch.  Immediately sprinkle marshmallows on brownie layer; return to oven and bake for 2-3 minutes longer to soften marshmallows.  Let cool completely on wire rack (at least 1 hour).

In a small saucepan, combine chopped chocolate and 1 Tbsp. melted butter.  Cook, stirring constantly, over low heat until chocolate melts.  Transfer to a large bowl; add sour cream and confectioner's sugar. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy.  Pour and spread evenly over marshmallows.  Cover and chill for 2 hours, or until top is firm.  Cut into 16 pieces.

May 28, 2012     Daylight  20 hours,  14 minutes,  7 seconds     Current Temp. 52 ºF

Friday, May 25, 2012

Personal Peach Pies

My second pie for Pie Summer was a delicious peach pie.  I found a carton of peaches at Sam's Club and just couldn't walk by that sweet smell.  But what was I going to do with all those peaches?  PIE!
My mother in law and brother in law were coming over for Sunday dinner and it was the perfect dessert.  Len brought ice cream to top the pie, oh heaven.  I had some small tart tins I have never used so thought this would be a great way to break them in.  I will confess I used the red box crust for this one.  We went to the greenhouse to get flowers for the yard, and I took way too long (at least in my husband's opinion) and ran out of time.  We stopped at the store on the way home so I picked up a box.

It really is beginning to feel like summer here.  We are almost at 20 hours of daylight, the bees are coming and going, we have had a full week of not going below freezing at night...I love this time of year. The chokecherry trees are just now blooming, Dave is working like a dog to get the dirt in my flower boxes and veggie boxes turned.  I planted the strawberries, carrots and radishes (before June 1st! the official "safe" planting date in Fairbanks). Now if we could just get some rain so we don't have a smoky summer with forest fires.  I know, I'm never satisfied!

Individual Peach Pies
Makes 4
Or double this and make one 9" pie (except crust)

5 peaches (about 1 lb.)
scant 1/3 cup sugar or to taste
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. corn starch
1 egg beaten for egg wash
cinnamon/sugar to sprinkle on top - optional

pie crust for double crust pie

Preheat oven to 425ºF.
Peel peaches.  To peel, cut a shallow x on the bottom of each peach.  Bring a pot of water to boil and have an ice bath ready.  Place peaches in boiling water for 30-40 seconds, immediately put in ice bath to cool.  Pull peach skin starting at the x, skin should pull off easily.  Cut peaches in 8 pieces and pull off pit.  Add all peaches to a large bowl.  Add sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, lemon juice and cornstarch.  Stir until well blended.  Set aside.

Using pie crust, line each tart shell with pastry and cut extra pastry into long strips.  Divide peach mixture evenly between 4 tart shells.  Using strips of crust dough, weave top of pies and pinch edges to ensure dough stays together.  Trim edges.  Brush top crust with beaten egg.  Sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar if desired.  Place pies on sheet pan.

Bake pies for 20-25 minutes until crust is golden brown and peach filling is bubbly.  Cool slightly, remove from tart tins and serve warm with good vanilla ice cream.

May 25 , 2012     Daylight  19 hours,  54 minutes,  25 seconds     Current Temp.  56 ºF

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A letter to my hero

Dear Dr. Robinette,
Today my youngest son turns 21.  You met Mason when he was 4, just days before his 5th birthday.  He fell in the garage with his hands inside of his shirt.  He broke his skull and severed the artery behind his temple. At the time I didn't know that, all I knew was that when he fell, he cried, I ran to him but couldn't see anything wrong.  I talked to him, tried to soothe him and picked him up and carried him in the house.  He wouldn't stop crying.  I finally got very scared and called 911, about that same time I checked his pupils, one was very large one was very small.  I knew there was a big problem.  We lived in the country, it was faster for us to drive him to the hospital, so we did, very fast.  In the meantime, the hospital called you.  You were having a nice  Friday night dinner date with your wife at a Thai restaurant.  You didn't hesitate, told your wife she would have to take a cab, and you left.  You were at the hospital before we were.  We were rushed in the E.R.  as the nurse cut the clothing from my son, she told us to call our pastor if we had one.
Then she said, "Kiss him now, it might be your last chance."
They took him from my arms and put him in your hands.
You operated on him for more than 2 hours.  We sat, numb, and waited.  Our pastor came and prayed with us and waited and waited.
When the surgery was over, Mason's pediatrician came out to tell us about the surgery.  He told us you saved Mason.  He was alive, but he might have to learn to talk again, he might have to learn to walk and swallow again.  I was angry, so angry.  I told our doctor to shut up, Mason would be fine.  He was very patient with me.  I was angry at the nurses, I told them Mason was cold and needed his blankie, even thought the ICU room was a very warm temperature to keep his body temperature up.  They were very patient with me.  I hope I was not angry with you.  I was really just scared, so scared and that was the only way I could deal with this situation I had no control over.
In the morning, Mason woke up.  You asked him his name.  He looked at you and then looked at me.
"What's your name, honey?" I asked.
"Mom, I Mason." you said in your little 4 year old voice, wondering why I would ask such a question when I knew his name.
You had given me my son back.

Thank you, for leaving your wife on a Friday evening to come to the aid of my 4 year old. Thank you to your wife for the patience and understanding to let you go quickly.  Thank you for your patience with me, and my the fear, anger, and sorrow I was so overwhelmed with.  Thank you for using your skill in such a way that gave me my son back, with nothing more than a large scar that circles one side of his head.  He didn't have to learn to talk again or walk again, you saved all that for him.  Thank you for giving me the chance to be his mommy and live through the first day of Kindergarten with him, and the terrible middle school attitude, braces, the first girlfriend break-up and high school graduation.
Today, my youngest son turns 21.  Thank you for giving his life back to him.  Words will never be enough.
Mason's grateful mom

May 23, 2012

Monday, May 21, 2012

Meet the pups and homemade dog biscuits

I used to have 5 kids living at home, now I have 5 dogs, 4 boys and a girl just like my children.  I want everyone to know I did not bring a single one of these dogs home, but I sure love them all.
Tucker always has his tire with him where ever he goes!
Tucker came to us by way of Golden Retriever Rescue.  He was rescued from the island of xxx as a stray.  Dave brought him home because I lost in cards and this is what we were playing for (I was playing for diamonds).  Tuck is 10 years old now.  When he was a puppy, he was in a sky kennel in one of the boys' rooms when we had our house fire.  It saved his life.  Our other two dogs didn't make it.  Tucker is an easy going guy with a bit of an anxiety disorder.  He can't be kenneled with the rest of the dogs.  He gets the run of the house while we are gone.  He is also the dog that figured out to pull the edge of the table cloth to get to what ever is cooling on the table (see Dec. 30th post).
Lobo did not like posing for the camera.  He doesn't usually look this sad.
Lobo is also a rescue dog.  After our fire everyone was looking for dogs for us.  Golden Retriever (GRR) had Lobo and it was love at first sight.  He was two and had been a companion dog for an elderly gentleman.  When Lobo needed a new home, GRR thought of us.  He is such a big, gentle boy, and afraid of his shadow.  Bo is 12 now and we cherish every day we have with him.  He is also famous.  He does t.v. adds for our favorite feed store, Cold Spot Feed.  But it hasn't gone to his head.
Riley is ready to move to Arizona.  He is always cold and looking for someone's body heat.
Lobo also allows Riley to sit on him.  Riley was a gift to me from my husband. I got him as a Christmas gift 9 years ago. He is a miniature dachshund and STUBBORN.  He is also very cold and is always trying to sit on someone to get their body heat.  When Riley was a tiny pup, he started crawling up on Lobo and has done it ever since.  Lobo is so tolerant.  Riley is the little prince, or at least he wants to be.  I think he is, and he is very handsome, even with his white face.
Hershey is the boss of all the dogs.

Hershey is an unfortunate looking dog.  He used to live across the street.  When that family realized they were too busy to take care of him, they asked us if we wanted him.  My husband said we would try it out.  Hershey came home on a Friday afternoon and then Dave left for a week with one of our sons for a soccer tourney in Anchorage.  I had this little dog, who was not house broken, wouldn't come to his name and had no social skills with other dogs.  I went to the store and bought a rotisserie chicken and he was so much better by the time Dave got home.  He is also the dog that ate a piece of a dog toy that got stuck in his stomach and it cost us $1,472.15 for the vet to preform a colon massage to get it out!  Yes, I LOVE that dog.
Lilly in her favorite spot, the green chair!

Lilly is the last dog we acquired.  She belonged to my youngest son, Mason.  When he left for college in Oregon, Lilly stayed behind.  Lilly has made herself at home.  She loves her green chair.  Now you say, "Go to your spot." and she jumps into the green chair.  She was a runner when she first came to us, but she is slowly learning to stay in the yard.  She is such a pretty girl.

They are such good dogs that every once in a while they need a special treat.  These fit the bill.  The rice flour make them easy to digest, so no tummy troubles for the pups.  They love them.  I also made an extra batch for a friend who just adopted a new puppy.  I hope her new puppy likes them too.

Be careful when making homemade treats for your dogs.  Many foods we eat have very dangerous side effects on dogs.  Among other things dogs must stay away from garlic, onions, chocolate, and grapes.

Dog Treats
from simmer till done (find it here)

2 eggs
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
2 tablespoons dry milk
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 1/2 cups brown rice flour *
1 teaspoon dried parsley (optional)

Preheat oven to 350.
In large bowl, whisk together eggs and pumpkin to smooth. Stir in dry milk, sea salt, and dried parsley (if using, optional). Add brown rice flour gradually, combining with spatula or hands to form a stiff, dry dough. Turn out onto lightly floured surface (can use the brown rice flour) and if dough is still rough, briefly knead and press to combine.
Roll dough between 1/4 – 1/2″ – depending on your dog’s chew preferences, ask first – and use biscuit or other shape cutter to punch shapes, gathering and re-rolling scraps as you go. Place shapes on cookie sheet, no greasing or paper necessary. If desired, press fork pattern on biscuits before baking, a quick up-and-down movement with fork, lightly pressing down halfway through dough. Bake 20 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully turn biscuits over, then bake additional 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely on rack before feeding to dog.
* Brown rice flour gives the biscuits crunch and promotes better dog digestion. Many dogs have touchy stomachs or allergies, and do not, like many people I know, tolerate wheat.
Makes up to 75 small (1″) biscuits or 50 medium biscuits
Please note: This is not professional medical advice. These biscuits are a healthy everyday treat, and useful for a dog with a sensitive stomach, or minor digestion issues. If your dog is showing any signs of serious distress, remove all food and contact your veterinarian immediately.

May 21, 2012     Daylight 19 hours, 27 minutes, 22 seconds     Current Temp. 57ºF

Friday, May 18, 2012

Lemon Meringue Pie

Hello, my name is Toni and I am a cookbookaholic.  I know that I have a problem and I am the only one who can get control of it...
At least that is how I feel any time someone new comes over to my house and sees my collection of cookbooks.  In the first place (is that really how you are supposed to start a sentence?) I love books.  I love reading books, looking at them, deciding which one to read next, thinking about them, and I have piles of books almost everywhere.  I am working on this though.  I don't have any piles of books in the living room anymore.
Cookbooks in the pantry

 I especially love cookbooks.  I read them cover to cover, like you would a good novel.  I think about the recipes, when I might make them, who I would make them for, how I might change them, and how I would learn this or that new technique.  I have one favorite called Boot Camp Baking I've read from cover to cover a couple of times, then refer to the recipes on a regular basis.  I have all the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks, three Ellie Krieger, three Sandra Lee, four vegetarian (those don't get used a lot), three Tosca Reno Clean Eating cookbooks, two Picture Perfect Meals cookbooks, The Joy of Cooking (the old version), Julia Child's The Way to Cook,  Biterman's How to Cook everything and the list goes on.  For the words, "I need this cookbook," to come out of my mouth is so ridiculous! But they do, and I buy cookbooks, I have a list of cookbooks I want, and my dear husband often purchases cookbooks for me.
Cookbooks in the kitchen

So act really surprised...
I have a new cookbook.  It is The Back in the Day Bakery.  After reading the cookbook cover to cover, I decided this would be a pie summer.  In the past, I have used the red box for pie crust (gasp!) but I have been shamed into learning how to make my own.  There is one recipe I found that uses vodka (my kind of recipe) and there are two different versions in TBITDB cookbook.  I was ready to start.

My first summer pie was the lemon meringue pie, and if this pie is any indication of how good these recipes are, I'm gonna need bigger pants.  WOW!  It was so delicious.  I told the boys across the street to tell mom they could come over for dessert after dinner and about 10 minutes later the boys and their mom were there ready to have dessert before dinner (I love the way she thinks).  We had dessert and it was so good, and we were eating so fast, I forgot to take pictures of the cut pie!  We also ate the whole thing.  O.K. there were 7 of us and I sent 2 pieces home with my mother-in-law. I had planned on taking 1/2 to work the next day so I would have witnesses, but no.  So you have to take my word on how worth it it is to make it (can I put any more of the word it into this sentence?).  It is lemony, sweet, tart with a pile of billowy sweet meringue on top...ahhhh, heaven.
I hope you enjoy the beginning of pie summer.

Lemon Meringue Pie
from The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook

Lemon Custard
6 large eggs separated (yolks for the lemon custard, whites for the meringue)
1.5 cups sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup whole milk
1 Tbsp. grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 pie crust - baked

6 egg whites (see above)
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 375ºF.  In a small bowl lightly whisk the egg yolks, set aside.
In a heavy nonreactive saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and salt.  Set the pan over medium heat and gradually add 1 1/4 cups water and the milk, whisking until smooth.  Continue to whisk until the mixture begins to boil, 4 to 5 minutes, then whisk constantly until the mixture begins to thicken.  Remove from the heat.

To temper eggs, add about 1 cup of the hot milk mixture to the egg yolks, whisking vigorously so the yolks do not curdle, then pour the warmed egg yolk mixture into the rest of the milk mixture and set over low heat.

Whisk in the lemon zest and lemon juice, then simmer, whisking until the custard is thick and glossy and has the consistency of pudding, 6 to 8 minutes.  Be careful not to overcook the custard: it will burn or curdle if the heat is too high.  Remove from the heat and stir in the butter until melted and fully incorporated.  Pour the custard into the prebaked crust and set aside while you make the meringue.

For meringue:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or in a large mixing bowl, using a handheld mixer), beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt on low speed for 1 minute, until the egg whites begin to thicken and look frothy.  Slowly add the granulated sugar and continue beating until soft peaks form.  Add the confectioners' sugar and whip on medium speed until the meringue is still and glossy; t should form still peaks that hold their shape when you lift the whisk out of the bowl.

Spread meringue over the top of the entire surface of the pie, making sure it touches the crust all around.  Pile the meringue on top and use a spatula to spread it in big swirls.  Bake for 8-10 minutes until the meringue is golden brown.

Remove pie from the oven and cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour before serving.  It is best served the same day, but can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

May 18, 2012     Daylight  19 hours,  3 minutes,  57 seconds     Current Temp. 57 ºF

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Bar-B-Que Chicken Salad with Bacon and Cornbread Crutons

I flew to San Antonio last week for a conference.  It was so nice to be in the "real world" as we call it at my house.  It was 90 degrees above and we had a real lightning and thunder storm (something we don't get in Fairbanks).  I had some great Tex-Mex and some fabulous barbeque.  I was in heaven.
Then the end of the conference came, I flew home (14 hours and three time zones) and my husband looked to me for dinner.  Luckily, I am a planner and I had dinner at the ready.  A fresh bag of lettuce (yes, sometimes you have to buy the bag), some shredded chicken and cornbread from the freezer, and some bottled barbeque sauce and you have Bar-B-Que Chicken salad with Bacon Cornbread Croutons.
It is the salad time of year, and I still had a hankering for that smoky barbeque flavor.  I love it when I think ahead and have something ready to throw together from the freezer.
Chicken and cornbread from the freezer
Bar-B-Que Chicken Salad with Bacon and Cornbread Croutons
makes 2 salads

 2 strips bacon
1 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup cornbread cut in cubes
4 cups chopped romaine lettuce
 1/2 cup frozen or canned corn (thawed and/or rinsed)
1/2 cup black beans
1/2 avocado diced
2 cups shredded chicken
1/2-1 cup favorite barbeque sauce
blue cheese dressing

Preheat broiler.
Dice bacon and fry in skillet.  Drain all but about 1 Tbsp. of fat. Add butter to the same pan and melt.  Add cornbread and stir to coat all sides.  Place cornbread on broiler safe pan and toast under broiler about 2-3 minutes, turn and toast all sides, being careful not to let it burn.  Set aside and cool slightly
Divide lettuce between two plates.  Top each with half of the corn, beans, and avacado.  Heat chicken in saucepan with desired amount of barbeque sauce.  Divide between plates, top with bacon bits and cornbread croutons.  Serve with blue cheese dressing.

May 15, 2012     Daylight  18 hours,  45 minutes,  50 seconds     Current Temp 52 ºF

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Spinach Salad with warm Bacon and Mushroom dressing and Crispy Shrimp

I try to make a good, entree style salad at least once a week.  It is easy this time of year when the produce is fresh, it is so different than when it is 40 below and all our produce seems a little sad and slightly frost-bit.  Dave really only likes red meat so I try to get extra greens on the table to help counteract all the cholesterol.  I served this with a crusty french loaf.  It was a fresh light dinner for Spring.

 Crispy Shrimp
from Cooking Light March 2012
makes 4 servings, but for us, dinner and some left-overs for Dave's lunch
  • 3/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), divided
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided 
 Preparation  Combine 1/4 cup panko, parsley, thyme, and crushed red pepper in a mini food processor; pulse to combine. Combine herb mixture with remaining 1/2 cup panko in a shallow dish. Place cornstarch and egg whites in separate shallow dishes. Sprinkle shrimp with salt and black pepper. Dredge half of shrimp in cornstarch, shaking off excess; dip into egg whites. Dredge shrimp in panko mixture; press to adhere. Repeat procedure with remaining shrimp.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add half of shrimp to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until done. Repeat with remaining oil and shrimp.  Cover to keep warm while you make the dressing.

If you want to save more oil, preheat the oven to 425ºF, warm a cookie sheet in the oven, prep your shrimp, spray the pan with cooking oil, lay shrimp on pan in a single layer, spray shrimp with cooking spray. Bake 12-15 minutes until shrimp is cooked through.

Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon and Mushroom Dressing
Makes 2 salads
4 cups fresh spinach
4 strips bacon, chopped
2 cups mushrooms, chopped
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/4 c. water
2 Tbsp. olive oil, if needed
salt and pepper to taste

Cook bacon until crispy, remove to paper towel lined plate.  Discard all but 2 Tbsp. bacon fat.  Add mushrooms to bacon fat and cook 3-5 minutes until tender.  Add 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar and 1/4 cup water, cook until liquid is reduced by half.  Add up to 2 Tbsp. olive oil if needed, taste and add salt and pepper if needed.  Plate 2 cups of spinach on each plate, divide dressing between two plates, top with shrimp, serve immediately.

May 8, 2012     Daylight  17 hours, 56 minutes, 46 seconds     Current Temp. 42ºF

Friday, May 4, 2012

Meatloaf for Two

Dave's lunch, leftover meatloaf.
The last few years all my kids were home they were big eaters.  All my kids are tall (I don't know where that came from, I'm so short) and teenagers are just never full. One night Joe, our oldest, got up from the dinner table after having thirds, went to the fridge and opened it, looking for something to eat.  I asked him, "Joe, there is more to eat at the table. Aren't you full?" 
He answered, "No, Toni, sometimes I just not as hungry as other times." 
So for dinner I always cooked for quantity and stretching a dollar.  One of the few meals everyone could agree on was meatloaf so we had it a couple times a month.  It was wonderful when we had moose because it was practically a free meal.

Notice how sunny it is?  We have over 17 hours of sunlight now!  Makes for a bad picture though.
After the last of the kids moved out, it took me a little while to get used to cooking for only two.  One Sunday I spent the afternoon in the kitchen, as usual.  Dinner time rolled around and I set the table with two plates and set out the 10 lbs. of mashed potatoes (yes 10, my boys would eat them all), 6 lb. meatloaf, 3 cans of green beans (my husband's favorite) and two loaves of homemade bread.  Dave and I sat down to dinner, I looked at all the food and our two little plates and burst into tears.  I really don't like that empty nest thing.  So I had to do some things differently, like learn how many potatoes to boil for mashed potatoes for two and how to deal with a whole meatloaf, even if you don't use 6 lbs. of meat.  One of the very smart teachers at my school (thank you Laura) suggested making meatloaf muffins and I did that but it is hard to make meatloaf sandwiches with muffins shaped meatloaf.  I bought this 4 mini loaf pan and use it for meatloaf now.  It works great.  One mini meatloaf is good for dinner and Dave's lunch the next day.  Then I can freeze individual mini meatloaves for another dinner or sandwiches.  The trick is to cut it the long way and the slices are perfect for sandwich bread and look the right size on the plate for dinner.
My handy-dandy 4 loaf stone for meatloaf.
olive oil for sauteing 
1 onion, chopped small
1 pkg. sliced mushrooms, chopped
2 small/med. zucchini, grated on smallest holes in grater
2 carrots, grated on smallest holes in grater
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lb. ground meat, (moose)
1/2 lb. ground Italian sausage (moose)
1 egg
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. steak sauce, and more for top (optional)

Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Add chopped onion and mushrooms into skillet with olive oil and saute until softened, add graded zucchini and carrots cook about 3-5 minutes more.  Add garlic and cook 1 minute.  Take off heat and let cool.  Add vegetable mixture to ground meat, sausage, egg, bread crumbs, Worcestershire sauce and steak sauce.  Mix well.  Shape into loaf pan or mini loaf pans or muffin pans. Bake large loaf for about 45-50 minutes, smaller pans 25-30 minutes and muffin pans 20-25 minutes.  With 5 minutes of cooking time left, top with additional steak sauce and return to oven to finish.  Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before cutting.

By adding the cooked veggies you add a lot of flavor and some moistness, important for lean moose.  It also allows you to use very lean burger and not have a dry loaf.

Add what ever veggies you have/like.  Sometime I add frozen chopped spinach or diced bell pepper.

Mini meatloaves for the freezer.

May   4, 2012     Daylight  17 hours,  28 minutes,  40 seconds     Current Temp.  49 ºF

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Hiving the Bees and Bee Cupcakes

I started keeping bees about 20 years ago.  It was a summer I really needed a lot to do.  I kept chickens, had a big (80' x 80') garden, had a baby and a toddler and I decided to keep bees.  Yes, I was crazy.  I no longer keep chickens but bees are something I still enjoy.  In Alaska it is hard to keep the bees over the winter, so beekeepers usually buy new ones every spring.  They come in a 3 lb. or 4 lb. box which contains about 10,000-13,000 bees and a queen in her own special box.  By the end of the summer we will have well over 20,000-40,000 bees.

When the bees come to Fairbanks in the spring, you have to feed them sugar water.  Right now there is no other food for them.  Most of the time you leave some honey in the hive from last year, so bees have some honey along with the sugar water.  You also have to provide fresh water for them for a while.

The twins and the boys across the street came to help with the hiving.  This is before the top comes off so no flying bees yet.
So here is the process of hiving bees.  I pick my bees up at Toklat Apiaries.  I get them home and get everything ready.  I have a spray bottle full of sugar water, sugar water and water jars ready, the hive has been cleaned (really not a lot to do there, the bees take care of it), the entrance is closed up (it stays closed for a couple of days so they get used to the new hive and the hive becomes "home"), the top is off and a frame is pulled from the super, and I put my bee suit on (yes, it is very attractive.  I know you want one).
Everyone took a turn spraying the bees with sugar water before we opened the box.  The silver circle on the top comes off to open the box.

I spray the bees down with sugar water.  This does two things, it feeds them after their long flight and day in the bee box, and it makes it so they can't fly.  The bees are busy cleaning each other, eating the sugar water and it calms them down.
The top is if off the bee box and I'm spraying the bees with more sugar water.

I take the top off the box, pull out the bag of travel food, and dump the bees into the open hive.  The queen is kept in a separate box, I spray her down and open the box CAREFULLY, and dump her into the hive (one year I killed the queen while opening her box, thankfully the bee guy had a couple extra queens for clumsy hivers like me).  This year, the queen box was a little different.  I hope I got her wet enough and she stayed in the hive.  We'll find out in a couple of weeks if there are any larva.

I put the frame back into the super, put the lid on, add the sugar water and water, put an empty super on the top and put the lid on.  That is all there is to it.  Every morning I bring out a filled bottle of sugar water and a bottle of fresh water and in a couple of days I'll take the entrance cover off so they can come and go.  I feed them until they start bringing pollen in the hive (you can see it on their legs in their "pollen baskets") and when there are some things blooming so they have a food supply.  Then I take the empty super off that holds the jars of food and water.  Later in the summer, I'll add one more super full of frames onto the hive.
Here you see three supers, the top one is empty of frames to hold the jars of water and sugar water.

My husband is very tolerant of my bee keeping.  I keep them on the front deck, it is the warmest place and we don't use that deck for anything anyway.  And he jokes because I don't always collect the honey.  I just like keeping bees.  This year we have to collect the honey though.  The blond boy in California loves honey, and it is too expensive to buy it for him and the cost of shipping.  Collecting my own will cut costs there.

One last note, when the blond boy was in middle school, he kept bees with me for the summer.  His older brother was the photographer.  We were hiving the bees and everything went well.  All of a sudden, the language from the older brother's mouth!  He got stung taking pictures, standing across the yard.  Poor guy, he wouldn't take pictures the rest of the summer! Luckily no one got stung this year hiving the bees.
I found this idea from Fowl Single File (find her blog here).  Hers looked so much better than mine, but they still were fun.  I sent them over to the twins and the boys to thank them for helping me hive the bees.  I made mine with my favorite chocolate cake recipe and added cream cheese frosting, then followed the directions from Fowl Single File.

May 2, 2012     Daylight  17 hours,  14 minutes,  38 seconds     Current Temp.  30 ºF