Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Braised Endive


This time of the year the veggies are pretty dreary in Fairbanks.  Then add to that the problem of getting your fresh produce from the store to the car without freezing, tough to do at -40°F.  We eat a lot of canned green beans (Dave's favorite! It is a long story) and some frozen stuff, but I really crave fresh even if it is cooked a little.

I was really happy to run across this recipe for braised endive in Eating Well.  Braising the endive takes that little bit of bitter away and the crunch from the bread crumbs is delicious.  I usually save endive for dips or salad, and am glad to have another way to use it.  Plus, it is one more night without canned green beans.

Braised Endive
Eating Well, Nov. -Dec. 2012

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh coarse whole-wheat breadcrumbs (see Tip)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 4 teaspoons butter, divided
  • 6 medium heads Belgian endive, halved
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs and parsley and cook, stirring, until the breadcrumbs are brown and crispy, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate; wipe out the pan.
  • Return the pan to medium heat and melt 2 teaspoons butter. Add 6 endive halves, cut-side down, and cook until beginning to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board. Repeat with the remaining 2 teaspoons butter and endive.
  • Add the first batch of endive back to the pan. Pour in broth and add garlic, thyme, sugar and salt. Cook, turning the endive every 10 minutes or so, until the liquid has evaporated completely and the endive is glazed, about 30 minutes total. Transfer the endive to a platter. (Discard garlic and thyme.) Serve sprinkled with the reserved breadcrumbs.
January 30, 2013     Daylight  hours,  minutes,  seconds     Temp. H 16 /L 5 °F

Monday, January 28, 2013

Daring Baker's Challenge-Speculaas



I'm kinda lazy at heart.  I signed up for Daring Bakers, knowing I would be baking up a storm, learning new things and challenging myself.  Truth is, I haven't been very good about keeping up with the challenges.  Somehow the month gets away from me, there is some weird ingredient or tool I need and I can't find it in Fairbanks, my month is too busy and I run out of time...I have a million excuses.  So, I committed to doing at least 6 challenges this year and I am happy to say the year got off to a good start with Speculaas.

Daring Bakers challenge this month came from Francijn from Koken in de Brouwerij.  Speculaas are a spicy cookie with an almond paste center.  Don't let the long list of directions scare you.  It isn't as hard as I thought it would be and I just did each part on a different day.  The directions are from Francijn, with notes from me.

I started with the spice mix one day, labeled it and put it in the cabinet.

A convenient way to mix the spices is as follows:
Take at least 1 or 2 teaspoons of ground cloves, ½ or 1 teaspoon of mace and ½ or 1 teaspoon of ginger.
Add to taste ½ or 1 teaspoon of white pepper, ½ or 1 teaspoon of cardamom, ½ or 1 teaspoon of coriander, ½ or 1 teaspoon of anise, and 1 or 2 teaspoons of nutmeg.
Measure or weigh the amount of spices you have now, and add an equal amount of cinnamon.

Then I made the almond paste.  My food processor made short work of this.  I kept it in the fridge for a couple of days.  It is supposed to improve the taste to let it sit a day or two.

Recipe Almond Paste
As we are going to make stuffed speculaas, we will need almond paste. You can buy it in a store, but homemade almond paste tastes better.
Ingredients:
7/8 cup (210 ml)(125 gm)(4½ oz) raw almonds (or 1-1/3 cups (320 ml)(125 gm) (4½ oz) ground almonds)
5/8 cup (150 ml) (125 grams) (4½ oz) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (3 gm) lemon zest
Directions:
If the raw almonds still have their brown skins, remove them as follows. Bring water to a boil, add the almonds, cook them for one minute, drain immediately and let cool for a few minutes. Rub them between your fingers to remove the skins.
Grind the almonds for one or two minutes in a food processor, until you see nothing but very small pieces. (Or skip this step if you use ground almonds.)
Add the sugar, and grind for another one or two minutes. It must be very fine after this step.
Add the egg and let the food processor combine it - if it is powerful enough. Otherwise you will have to combine it with your fingers.
Store the almond paste in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Although the flavor gets better as days pass by, it is not wise to store the paste for too long, as it contains a raw egg. For the same reason you should not eat the paste unbaked.
Then, on a day off work, I made the cookie dough and put it all together.
Recipe Speculaas Dough
Ingredients:
1¾ cups (250 gm) (9 oz) all purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) baking powder
¾ cup (150 grams) (5-1/3 oz) brown sugar, firmly packed
a pinch salt
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) speculaas spices
3/4 cup (1½ stick) (175 gm) (6 oz) unsalted butter
Directions:
Put flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and spices in a bowl.
Cut the butter in dices and add.
Knead until smooth.
Feel free to add a little milk if the dough is too dry.
Wrap in clingfoil and put in the refrigerator for two hours.
You can choose to make the dough a few days in advance, just like the almond paste, that will benefit the flavor. Freezing is no problem.

Assembling and baking the Gevulde Speculaas
Ingredients:
speculaas dough
almond paste
whole almonds without skins for decoration
1 large egg
shallow baking pan, 8x10 inch (20x26 cm) or, round with of diameter 10 inch (26 cm)
Directions:
1. Grease the pan.
2. Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas 4
3. Divide the dough into two portions.
4. Roll out both portions on a lightly floured surface, until they are exactly as big as the baking pan.
5. Put one of the layers in the pan and press it lightly to fill the bottom.
6. Lightly beat the egg with a teaspoon cold water.
7. Smear 1/3 of the egg over the dough in the pan.
8. Roll out the almond paste between two sheets of clingfoil, until it is exactly as big as the pan, and put it on the dough in the pan. (If you chose to make the paste soft, you can smear the paste instead of rolling it.)
9. Press the paste lightly down to fit in the pan, and smear the next 1/3 of the egg over it.
10. Now put the second layer of dough on top of the paste, press it lightly, and make as smooth as possible.
11. Smear the last 1/3 of the egg over the dough.
12. Decorate the pastry with the almonds.
13. Bake for 40 minutes in the preheated oven.
14. Let cool completely in the pan, then cut it in portions as you like.
The house smelled wonderful as the cookies bake and the cookies are delicious with a cup of tea or coffee.  I'll be making these again.  They are on the "favorite" list.
January 28, 2013    Daylight 6 hours, 33 minutes, 6 seconds    Temp. H -24 /L -45 °F

Friday, January 25, 2013

Rain Days and Hot Chocolate Peppermint Affogato


Our second day off school/work this year for the weather.  It was 37 above in Fairbanks and it rained!  It rained and rained and left a thick cover of ice on all the roads.  The roads were terrible, busses were late, cars lined the ditches along the roads, people fell on the sidewalks, and school was called off.

The problem now is that it is going to drop below zero again and we will have this thick layer of ice on the roads and it is too cold for any salt or de-icing chemicals to work.  What we do is have street graters rough up the ice and then gravel the hell out of the roads (yes, I go through a windshield a winter) and hope some of the ice evaporates as the winter progresses.  Oh the joys of Fairbanks!

So, I stayed home, watched the first season of Downton Abbey (thank you Michelle for lending me season one and two), drank Hot Chocolate Affogato and had a wonderful day.

Hot Chocolate Peppermint Affogato
For Hot Chocolate
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
dash salt
1/3 cup hot water
4 cups whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Mix sugar, cocoa and slat in a saucepan.  Stir in water until smooth.  Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture boils, boil and stir 2 minutes.  Whisk in milk and heat.  Do not bring to a boil.

Other ingredients
Peppermint ice cream
whipped cream
crushed peppermint stick

Scoop ice cream into mugs, pour in hot chocolate, top with whipped cream and crushed peppermint.  Enjoy.
(If you are home because work was called off you can add a little peppermint schnapps to your hot chocolate.)
Start with big scoops of peppermint ice-cream and a hot pot of good hot chocolate.
Top with whipped cream and crushed candy canes.

January 25, 2013   Daylight 6 hours, 13 minutes, 20 seconds  Temp. H -24/ L -39 °F



Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Caramelized Onion and Blue Cheese Flat Bread

We have had a pretty mild January so far.  After November and December, we needed it.  One problem with warmer weather is now it can snow.  When it is really cold, it is too cold to snow, but now, at 10 above, it snows a lot.  Dave spends evenings pushing snow around.  He moves it off the drive way and off the back deck.  He shovels a path to the fuel tank for the delivery man, and he usually does a neighbor or two.  You have to move it right away or it freezes hard and it is like trying to shovel concrete.

It is dark, it is cold and by the time he comes in he is hungry.  This is a nice little snack I made to help warm him up and keep him until dinner.  He needs to keep up his strength because next he has to carry wood in.


Caramelized Onion and Blue Cheese Flat Bread
1 cup greek yogurt
1.5 cups self rising flour*, plus more for kneading
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3 large onions
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup blue cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Pre-heat oven to 400°F.

In heavy bottomed pan or dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat.  Add sliced onions and salt.  Cover and cook for 15 minutes.  Remove cover and cook 15-20 minutes more, or until onions are golden brown and tender.  Remove from heat to cool.

Mix yogurt and flour together (I use my stand mixer).  Turn dough out onto a floured counter or table, knead until dough is lightly sticky and well mixed.
Roll out onto a pizza stone or a cookie sheet.
Top dough with onions, blue cheese and parmesan cheese.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until dough is cooked through and cheese is bubbly and browned.
Cut into wedges and serve warm.

*To make your own self-rising flour mix: 1 cup flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. baking soda.  Double or triple for this recipe.

January 23, 2013    Daylight  6 hours, 0 minutes, 22 seconds   Temp. H -2/ L -15 °F

Monday, January 21, 2013

BLT Wedge Salad with Blue Cheese and Green Goddess Dressing

So the other day I whined...really bad.  I hate driving myself to work in the morning.  I'm eating my oatmeal, singing along with the radio, balancing my coffee, I just don't have an extra hand (or knee) to drive, especially when it is icy.  So I asked Dave to drive me....and he said no.  Well, I asked again, another no.  I had to start whining, but it didn't work.  Then I was just a little pissed. I HATE to drive, I want him to drive me, we work blocks apart, my car uses less gas than his, I had a million good reasons, and he had the nerve to say no.

So I drove myself to work and muttered to myself the whole way there and especially when I had to get into a cold car to drive home (o.k. yes I have auto-start, but it sounds better if I say my car was cold).  But then I felt bad for being so whiny.  He does drive me most of the time and he was going to get off work before I was, so he didn't want to wait around until I was done.  O.K. I get it, and felt I needed to make it up to him a little.

We start our dinner, almost every night, with salad.  Most of the time it's just a handful of greens and maybe a tomato.  But tonight I did it up a little.  I made a BLT wedge salad with blue cheese crumbles and Green Goddess dressing.  It was wonderful.  It was also huge and big enough for dinner in itself.  The Green Goddess dressing came from Ellie Krieger and it makes a lot.  Enough that we can have this again soon.

By the way, Dave drove me the next day.  I like to think it was because he loves and cares for me, but really it is probably because he wants me to make this salad for him again.

BLT Wedge Salad
for 2
1 head Iceburg lettuce cut into 4 wedges (I only used 2 and saved the other 2 for another night)
4 pieces bacon
1 Tbsp. butter
2 pieces whole grain bread, cut thick
1 tomato
4 Tbsp. crumbled blue cheese

Core and cut the lettuce into 4 wedges, place 2 wedges on salad plates, put 2 away for another night.  Cook bacon until crisp, place on paper towel to drain.  Remove bacon fat from pan, add 1 Tbsp. butter.  Cut bread into cubes, add to pan and saute until bread is toasty and crisp.  Remove from pan to paper towel.  Cut tomato into cubes.  Crumble bacon.

Over the top of each lettuce wedge sprinkle 1/2 the bacon, tomato, bread cubes and 2 Tbsp. blue cheese.  Top with Green Goddess Salad Dressing.  Serve with a knife and fork.

Green Goddess Dressing
adapted from from Ellie Krieger
1/2 ripe avocado, peeled

  • 3/4 cup lowfat buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh tarragon leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Put all of the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Any leftover dressing will keep well in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days in an airtight container

January 21, 2013   Daylight 5 hours, 47 minutes, 35 seconds   Temp. H 9/ L 1°F

Friday, January 18, 2013

Lemon Panna Cotta with Strawberry Sauce


I've been really good, working out at 5:00 am, watching what I eat, drinking my water.  But after a day or two of that (come on, how long is a girl supposed to keep that up?) I need dessert.  This time of the winter I crave oranges, lemons,  grapefruit and strawberries.

Can you imagine strawberries in January in Fairbanks?  They are tasteless.  I have trained myself not to buy fresh strawberries at the store, but I still need my fix.  So, after smelling the fresh berries in the produce dept., I head to the frozen foods and get a 1 lb. package of frozen berries.

This dessert is the perfect thing for this time of year.  It is light in calories, has citrus and I add strawberry sauce over the top so it hits all my requirements.  With the left over strawberry sauce I'll make a rhubarb crisp with an oatmeal crumble...what? oatmeal is good for you.

Lemon Panna Cotta with Strawberry Sauce
Panna Cotta adapted from January Cooking Light 2013 


  • lemon
  • 11 tablespoons 2% reduced-fat milk, divided 
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1 1/2 cups reduced-fat buttermilk
  • Cooking spray
  • 1. Remove rind from lemon using a vegetable peeler, avoiding white pith. Squeeze 3 tablespoons juice from lemon. Combine rind, 1/2 cup milk, half-and-half, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan; bring to a simmer over medium heat (do not boil). Remove pan from heat; cover and let stand 20 minutes. Discard rind. Sprinkle gelatin over remaining 3 tablespoons milk in a small bowl, and let stand at least 10 minutes. Return half-and-half mixture to medium heat; cook for 1 minute or until very hot. Add the gelatin mixture, stirring with a whisk until dissolved (about 1 minute). Stir in buttermilk and 3 tablespoons juice. Divide mixture among 4 (6-ounce) ramekins or custard cups coated with cooking spray. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours.
  • 2. Run a knife around outside edges of panna cotta. Place a plate upside down on top of each cup; invert onto plate. 
  • Frozen strawberries, frozen orange juice, and sugar make a delicious sauce.
Strawberry Sauce
1 lb. pkg. frozen whole strawberries without sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar, depending on sweetness preference

Let frozen berries thaw slightly, cut into 1/4ths with scissors or knife.  Put in medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add orange juice and sugar.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer.  Simmer until strawberry mixture reduces by about 1/3 and begins to get syrupy.  Cool completely.  Use as suace for Panna Cotta, french toast, or pancakes.

January 18, 2013     Daylight 5 hours, 28 minutes, 52 seconds   Temp. H -17/ L -20 ºF

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Orange Pound Cake

This time of the year I always crave oranges and grapefruit.  I don't know if it is because of the dark and cold, the fact that fresh produce is not so great in Fairbanks, or my body is really telling me I need more vitamin C.  In any case, I can't get enough of the taste or smell.

I found this pound cake recipe in Feb/March Fine Cooking.  It seemed like the perfect cake for this time of year.  It is bright and fresh tasting with the orange juice and orange zest, with a sweet note from the soak of orange glaze.  It is moist and delicious.
We've all heard the news about the number of cases of the flu, and the best way to build your immunity is to get extra vitamin C.  Well, this is the most delicious way to up your vitamin C intake...I don't know if it will keep the flu away, but it will sure taste good while you try.

Glazed Orange Pound Cake
Fine Cooking Magazine Feb/March 2013

6 oz. (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened; more for the pan
4 medium navel oranges
9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. plus 1 pinch salt
1 1/4 c. granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 oz. (1 1/4 cups) confectioners' sugar

Position rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350° F.  Butter a 9X5 inch loaf pan.  Line the bottom with parchment and then butter the parchment.

Finely grate enough zest from the oranges to yield 2 Tbsp. and then squeeze the oranges to yield 1 cup strained juice.  Set aside 1/4 cup juice for the glaze.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and the 1/2 tsp. salt.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment ( or a large bowl, using an electric hand mixer), beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating on medium speed until incorporated and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Add the vanilla an orange zest and beat until incorporated, the mixture may look curdled at this point.  With the mixer on low, alternately add the flour mixture in three addition, and the remaining 3/4 cup orange juice in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the flour.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, then tap the pan on the conter a couple of times to pop any air pockets.  Bake until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, run a knife around the sides, then invert it onto the rack.  Remove the parchment and invert again.

In a medium bowl, whisk the reserved 1/4 cup orange juice with the confectioners' sugar and the pinch of salt until smooth.  Set the warm cake on it's rack over a large rimmed baking sheet.  Using a toothpick, poke holes at 3/4 inch intervals on the top of the cake, stopping about three-quarters of the way down the cake.

Repeatedly brush the glaze evenly over the top and sides of the cake until you've used it all.  Let the cake cool completely, about 2 hours, before slicing and serving.  Sore the cake at room temperature, wrapped in plastic for up to 3 days.

January 16, 2013     Daylight 5 hours, 16 minutes, 45 seconds     Temp.  H -17/ L -20 °F

Monday, January 14, 2013

Coq Au Vin

Sunday dinner was Coq Au Vin, salad with radishes, and crusty whole grain bread.

In my never ending quest to find chicken dishes that Dave will like, I made Coq Au Vin.  The recipe was in the December issue of Bon Appetit.  I thought Dave would eat it because it had so much wine!  I was right.  He did like it, he said it was "very good" and I can make it again.  That is two chicken dishes in a row!  I'll have him eating chicken a couple times a week pretty soon....or maybe not.
Cooking the onion and carrot with the rendered bacon.  I removed most of the bacon fat before adding the veggies.
Chicken, mushrooms, wine.....lots of deliciousness.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 5 skin-on, bone-in chicken legs (thigh and drumstick)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 ounces thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise into 1/3-inch slices
  • 3 carrots, peeled, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, minced
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 4 cups dry red wine, such as Burgundy, divided
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
  • 12 sprigs thyme
  • 6 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 pound assorted wild mushrooms, such as oyster and maitake, cleaned, cut into bite-size pieces (about 8 cups)

Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in an ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Cook chicken in batches until browned, 5-6 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
  • Add bacon to pot; cook until rendered. Add carrots, celery, and onion; cook until onion is translucent, 7-8 minutes. Stir in 1 cup wine and tomato paste; simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add remaining 3 cups wine. Boil until wine is reduced by half, 15-20 minutes. Return chicken to pot.
  • Add broth. Tie thyme and rosemary sprigs together; add to pot. Bring to a boil and cover pot. Transfer pot to oven and braise until chicken is tender, about 1 1/4 hours.
  • Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms; sauté until browned, about 5 minutes.
  • Transfer chicken from sauce to pot with mushrooms; keep warm. Simmer sauce over medium heat until reduced by 1/3, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Add mushrooms and chicken to sauce. DO AHEAD Coq au vin can be made 3 days ahead. Chill uncovered until cold. Cover; keep chilled. Rewarm before serving

January 14, 2013     Daylight 5 hours, 5 minutes, 1 second    Temp. H 36°/ L 4° F

Friday, January 11, 2013

Vodka Martini for a hard week

Photo from All Recipes

It has been a hard week.  We said goodbye to the baby boy and his chick on Sunday evening, so I spent the rest of the night feeling very sorry for myself and I cried myself to sleep, only to wake up Monday with a headache.

Monday night we had dinner with Linda the last time before she left on her great adventure to her new home in Alabama.  I cried when I went home and cried myself to sleep, only to wake up Tuesday with a headache.

Tuesday evening we started de-Santa-tizing the house.  Dave took down the Christmas tree and I got a box of little santas put away.  I was tired, grumpy and sad.  Dave looked at the clock and noticed it was time for my favorite show, NCIS.

"Just go watch some t.v., honey.  Get your mind off things." he said.

I went up to watch Mark Harmon NCIS and just chill.

About 50 minutes later Dave walks up the stairs, only to find me crying.

"What's wrong?" he asked surprised.

"Zeva's dad died." I sobbed...

Yea, really.

Then Director Vance's wife died on the operating table...more crying.

I went to bed Tuesday crying, only to wake up Wednesday with a headache.

Wednesday, I wasn't allowed to turn on the t.v.  We had a quiet dinner in front of the wood stove and went to bed early.  Dave wasn't taking any chances.

So by now I am really tired, a little grumpy and I have the January blues.  It is dark, it is cold, the holidays are over and I'm going to start crying all over again.  And for all that, I need a good stiff drink.

Most of the time I really like girly drinks with fruit and sweet, but in the midst of January, I need a stiff, bracing, no frills drink.  I want a vodka martini.  Sometimes I add olives, sometimes I don't.  And this time I couldn't even be bothered to take a picture, so I got one off the internet! It was the only way Dave was going to make it through Thursday night with me.  Bottoms up!

Vodka Martini
Toni's way

2 oz cold vodka (I keep mine in the freezer)
1/2 oz. dry vermouth

Shake vodka and vermouth with lots of ice.  Shake well, strain into glass.  Add olives or a lemon twist (if you can be bothered).  Drink.

I only get one.

January 11, 2013    Daylight  4 hours, 48 minutes, 13 seconds   Temp. H 12/ L 3 °F

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

So Long to a Good Friend

Linda and Carlton at our house on Christmas Eve

Sometimes your heart is so full it spills out of your eyes.

We had our girls' monthly dinner on Monday night.  The five of us met at LaVelle's, laughed, de-stressed from our work, laughed, caught up on what everyone did for the holidays, laughed and said good-bye to our dear friend, Linda.

I met Linda 20 years ago when I moved to a new school.  Her classroom was across the hall from mine, and not knowing anyone, I encamped myself into her room at lunch (we had the same lunchtime) and we became friends.

We began quilting together, every Thursday evening at her house.  A small group of us or just the two of us, working on quilts, memories, gifts and getting through the ups and downs of life.  We have been friends and support through her boyfriend (now husband) being in Haiti for months for his job, my divorce, her marriage, my second marriage, the loss of dear dogs, parent's illnesses, our own illnesses, children growing up...life.

In Fairbanks our families are often those people we choose.  Extended families are the exception, children leave to go to college, discover the real world and never come back.  Parents retire and choose a climate that is a little easier to deal with, not so much cold, not so much dark, and sidewalks not always covered with snow so you can walk outside and not worry about breaking a hip.  Saying goodbye to long time friends is difficult, especially when you think of them as family and visiting is a lot more difficult than driving a few hours or a quick flight.  Fairbanks is so remote.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm so happy and excited that Linda gets to move.  She will be closer to her family, her husband has an exciting new job, they are moving to a milder climate, I can go visit her and discover a new place.  But it is the selfish part of me that is especially sad.  I won't see her every month at our girl's dinners, I won't be able to cry on her shoulder when ever I want to, we won't be able to share a good bottle of wine at a moment's notice...see it really is all about me.

So, I want to thank her for the wonderful memories (remember the bug we thought was going to kill us because he had such a long stinger?  We used a whole can of raid and a can of hairspray on him.  Turns out it was his male member that was so long and that kind of bug is harmless), the support, advice and friendship.  And here is to a wonderful adventure in your new home, new memories, Skype at girls' dinner, and a new place for me to visit ( yes, it really is all about me).

Sometimes your heart is so full it spills out of your eyes.

January 9, 2013   Daylight 4 hours, 37 minutes, 40 seconds   Temp. H -8/ L -11 °F

Monday, January 7, 2013

New Cookbooks


Well, the last group of kids have left, I had to go back to work after 2 weeks of annual leave, and it is time to de-Santatize the house.  Back to the normal routine and the darkness of January...bummer.

One thing will help me make it through these next couple dark months are the cookbooks I received for Christmas.  It was a very good cookbook year!

I received a 1959 Fanny Farmer Cookbook from my friend Jim.  We were talking bout cookbooks and how I lost my collection in our house fire 10 years ago.  I have replaced all the cookbooks I really loved, and added a couple hundred more, but the one I hadn't replaced was my Fanny Farmer Cookbook.  I love reading about the differences in social customs and norms from then.  It is such a fun cookbook to read.

I also go the Bun on the Run cookbook.  I can't wait to get started on that.  Bun on the Run is a summer institution in Fairbanks.  It has delicious cinnamon rolls, scones and sandwiches.  I'll share some of those recipes soon.
The blond boy and the DIL put this little gem in my gift this year.  We will all be enjoying some of the recipes from this book.
Then my friend Heather gave me these two delights.  I can't tell you how excited I am to start baking from these!  How perfect for January dark days, and the coming of Valentine's Day.  Chocolate will be floating around my kitchen for sure.

Some excellent additions to my cookbook library.  My husband says they are over-running the house and I have to start weeding...yea, that is going to happen.

What are some of your favorite cookbooks?
The baby and his chick at Santa's house in North Pole, Alaska


January 7, 2013    Daylight 4 hours, 27 minutes, 45 seconds   Temp. H 2/ L -17 ºF

Friday, January 4, 2013

Dog Sledding

 So, the oldest boy's chick wanted to go dog sledding.  Dave called Paws for Adventure and made a surprise appointment for her.  When we arrived the dogs were getting hooked up to the sled.  The chick only had to sit down in the sled and they were off!
 Paws for Adventure has been in business for 15 years.  They can run about 3 sleds at a time and have run up to 7 at a time, but that makes for a very busy dog yard!  You can find Paws for Adventure here and check them out for yourself.
Leslie, the owner, was friendly and very informative.  We sat in the warm up yurt drank hot chocolate and visited while the chick was on her 30 minute ride.  You could tell Leslie loved her dogs, the outdoors and her Alaskan lifestyle.  We'll go back and ride again.
The chick is ready for her ride!
The chick loved her ride and enjoyed her conversation with the musher, she was grinning ear to ear after the ride.
And they are off!
January 4, 2013     Daylight 4 hours, 14 minutes, 13 seconds   Temp. H 18/L -4 °F

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Sun Dried Tomato and Blue Cheese Layered Tort

 These little layered cheese torts are easy to make, impress people and they are so delicious!  I can't believe how simple they are.  They make a great hostess gift, paired with some home made bread or nice store bought crackers.  I made 8 of these little guys as gifts at Christmas time, and got to keep one for snacks one night at home.
 I have these cute 4.5 inch cake pans I use.  I can get 4 torts from one recipe.  These pans were a gift from a friend for my birthday last year and I use them for everything from cakes, to brownies, and now cheese.  You could use small bread pans or small bundt pans.   First line the pan with plastic wrap.
 Put a layer of nuts, pretty side down, in the pan.
 Layer the first flavor of cheese spread.  Be more careful than I was with this step, when the cheese gets on the plastic wrap, you don't see the layers in the final product.  Put the second layer on top of the first, fold the plastic wrap over the top of the cheese and refrigerate overnight.
Use the plastic wrap to gently pull the tort out of the mold.  Turn upside-down (now right side up) and pull the wrap off.  These molds have a small indention in the top that I fill with nuts.

Sun Dried Tomato and Blue Cheese Layered Tort

2 8 oz. packages of cream cheese, softened
4 oz. good blue cheese, crumbled
1 dash worcestershire sauce
4 oz. sun dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped finely
1 Tbsp. oil from sun dried tomatoes
pecans or walnuts, chopped - saving a few whole to decorate the tops

Mix one package of cream cheese with the blue cheese and worcestershire sauce.  In a separate bowl, mix together second package of cream cheese, chopped sun dried tomatoes and 1 Tbsp. oil from tomatoes.

Line 4 small molds with plastic wrap, lay whole nuts in decorative pattern.  Divide each flavor cheese into fourths, spread 1/4 tomato mixture into each mold.  You can add a layer of chopped nuts, if desired.  Add 1/4 blue cheese mixture on to top of tomato cheese mixture.  Fold plastic wrap over top of cheese to cover completely.  Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

Use plastic wrap to help unmold cheese.  Add more chopped nuts, if desired.  Serve with crackers or bread.

January 2, 2013     Daylight 4 hours, 6 minutes, 14 seconds   Temp. H 5 /L 0 °F