Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Happy Spring

 Happy Spring! Or at least someplace in the world it is spring.  I am looking out my window at the snow come down sideways right now.  Fairbanks is fun like that.
 So, instead of the recipe I planned for today, I'm dreaming of warmer weather and being outside in my yard.  It might happen this year, just not anytime soon.
 I know it will have to warm up at some point.  Really, I can wait.
 Ah, hell.  I think I'll call in sick today, make some hot chocolate, crank up the wood stove and pretend it is warm outside.
 It will warm up, it will warm up, it will warm up...

April 24, 2013     Daylight 16 hours, 17 minutes 1 second   Temp. H 33/ L 14°F

Monday, April 22, 2013

Parmesan topped Salmon

So, we are thinking about selling our house and downsizing.  I love my house, but it is too big for the two of us.  We have 4 bedrooms, a large living room, play room, family room and "pantry" that is really about 8'X20'.  We have a lot of room.  We are thinking about geting something smaller and not heating all those empty rooms.

But that does mean I have to clean house.  And keep it clean while it is on the market.  I just don't know if I can do that.  Housecleaning has never been at the top of my list.  Now, don't get me wrong, our house is mostly picked up and at a safe and healthy cleanliness level, but we do have 5 dogs and I would much rather bake than vacuum or dust.

So, one way to ease my stress, I have declared that we will grill dinner until our house is sold.  No, it isn't on the market yet, but grilling means Dave does most of the work and it will free me up for more housecleaning, at least that is what I'm telling Dave.

We started with parmesan topped salmon.  I love his dish.  The salmon picks up a bit of smoky flavor then, when it is almost finished cooking, it is topped with this cheesy topping that gets browned and bubbly.  This is a delicious dinner, good enough for company, and done on the grill.  It might give me enough time to think about dusting upstairs.

Parmesan Topped Salmon

1 salmon fillet, I leave it whole, but you can cut it into portions if you like
2 Tbs. mayo
2 Tbs. fat free greek yogurt
1 tsp. worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme, oregano, or basil (1.5 tsp. if dried)
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Preheat grill.
Mix mayonnaise, yogurt, worcestershire sauce herb and parmesan cheese.   Set aside
Rinse fish and remove bones with a pair of tweezers check here to see how it is done.

Place salmon, skin side down, on double thickness of aluminum foil.  Place on grill.

Grill salmon 10 minutes, spread cheese topping over top of salmon, cover grill.  Continue grilling until salmon flakes easily and topping begins to brown.

April 22, 2013     Daylight 16 hours, 3 minutes, 8 seconds     Temp. H 43/L 18°F

Friday, April 19, 2013

Lemonade Cupcakes with Raspberry Buttercream

Our spring has pretty much sucked.  Yep, last Monday it never even warmed up to the expected low temperature.  I know Fairbanks isn't alone.  I see the news and the "lower than average temperatures" across the country.  I know why this is happening.  It is because my mom and dad are planning on coming to Fairbanks for the summer.

Now, don't get me wrong, I love my mom and dad, I love when they come up for the summer, and I would happily put up with cooler temperatures once in a while for them, but this will be the third summer trip in a row they bring cold summer temperatures.

Two summers ago, they came up for the summer, it was the 4th coldest summer on record.  Three years before that when they came for the summer, we had snow in June and August, and rain all of July.  If this pattern holds true through this summer, I'm going to have to work on a way to un-invite them, because I'm thoughtful and kind like that.

So, I'm working on positive, warm thoughts and what is better on a hot summer day than a glass of cold lemonade?  Maybe raspberry lemonade.  And since 7 above is too damn cold for lemonade, I'm making them into cupcakes.  I found this recipe on Pinterest.  It comes from Julie Van Rosendaal, find her post here.  I thought it would brighten my day, at least having the oven on did warm up the kitchen.

Lemonade Cupcakes with Raspberry Buttercream
adapted from Julie Van Rosendaal

adapted from a lemon cupcake recipe at AllRecipes
1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
grated zest and juice of a lemon
1 cup milk, divided
Preheat oven to 375 F and line 24 muffin tins with paper liners.
In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar and lemon zest with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.
In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the butter mixture a third at a time, alternating with half the milk and half the lemon juice after each of the first 2 additions of flour. Beat until just combined.
Fill the prepared tins and bake for 20 minutes, until springy to the touch. Tip the cupcakes in their tins to help them cool. Let cool completely before frosting. If you like sprinkle with colored sugar. Makes 2 dozen.
Fresh Raspberry Frosting
1 cup fresh raspberries (or thawed from frozen)
1 cup butter, at room temperature
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
In the bowl of a food processor, puree the raspberries until smooth. If you like, press the mixture through a sieve to get rid of the seeds.
In a medium bowl, beat the butter and half the sugar until smooth. Add the raspberry puree, then more sugar until you have a fluffy, spreadable consistency. Add a splash of water, too (a tablespoon or two) if it needs it.
The next time I make these I want a more lemony cake and a more raspberry frosting.  I'll add more lemon zest and lemon juice to the cake batter and I'm going to experiment with cooking down 3 cups of berries to make a more concentrated juice for the buttercream.
Even the dogs are cold.  Sleeping by the fire and cuddling in the afternoon.
April 19, 2013    Daylight 15 hours, 42 minutes, 23 seconds     Temp. H 32/ L 2 °F

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Chocolate Cocoa Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting and Chocolate Ganache

I don't really need an excuse to eat cake, but I'm always looking for one.  A couple weeks ago my friend, and fellow Yankee fan, John, told me he was going to have a birthday.  I told him I would fix him a cake, just let me know what he wanted.  He left for Anchorage without letting me know what he wanted and I almost made him these pineapple upside down mini cakes.  But I decided they didn't look much like "birthday" so I settled on this chocolate cocoa cake with vanilla buttercream frosting and a topping of chocolate ganache.  It was a good choice.

I made the cake, frosted and decorated it on Sunday, brought it to work monday morning, the agreed upon celebration day, and HE DIDN'T SHOW UP!  He called in sick.  Something about the stomach flu...yea right.  I left the cake in our IT department and they devoured it, after taking pictures and texting them to him.

Well, if you have a birthday, anniversary, retirement, pot luck, or any other reason to make a cake (Thursday is a good reason), this is the cake to make.  It is moist, chocolatey, and delicious.

Chocolate Cake
adapted from the Hershey's Cocoa Can
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened

2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

 Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round or square baking pans.
Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes.
Stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl.  Add to sugar mixture.   Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
1 cup butter, softened
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. heavy cream
3 cups confectioner's sugar, plus more

Beat butter with 1.5 cups of powdered sugar, add vanilla extract and heavy cream.  Add the rest of the sugar, adding more if needed.  Mix until smooth.  Frost cake, using about 1/3 of the frosting between the two layers.

Chocolate Ganache
3 oz. dark chocolate, 70% cocoa
2 Tbsp. heavy cream, more if needed

Place broken chocolate and 2 Tbsp. heavy cream in a microwave safe bowl.  Microwave on high for 1 minute, stir.  Microwave in 15 second intervals, stirring after each time, until chocolate is melted and cream is completely stirred in. If texture is too thick, add 1 tsp. cream, heat for 15 seconds, and stir.  Repeat until desired consistency is achieved.  Pour over chilled, frosted cake.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Pickled Red Onions

I'm using left-overs for dinner.  We had pulled pork in the freezer from Dave's birthday party and wanted to change it up a little.  I threw the pork in a saute pan, added some taco seasoning, and let the pork crisp up and caramelize a little.  Then I stuffed the pork into warmed corn tortillas, added some salsa verde and these pickled red onions.  Dinner was a hit.

I don't do very good with left-overs.  I usually leave them in the fridge for Dave to eat for lunch or for our son to eat when he stops by (as he is opening the fridge he asks, "Toni, what is the oldest thing I should eat first?")  I was pretty pleased with this.  It didn't seem like left-overs to Dave and we didn't eat pulled pork "again", which is a good thing since I have two more containers of pulled pork in the freezer...any other suggestions?

Pork Carnitas

Left-Over Pulled Pork, this is the recipe I use
Taco Seasoning, this is the recipe I use
Salsa Verde, I used a jar
Pickled Onions

Pickled Red Onions
adapted from Food Network Magazine, May 2013
1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. mustard seed
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. kosher salt

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan.  Boil 2 minutes, let cool.  Store in refrigerator.

Dave puts these on everything; salads, sandwiches, eggs, tacos, pork chops.....
April 15, 2013     Daylight 15 hours, 14 minutes, 50 seconds   Temp. H 33/L 7ºF

Friday, April 12, 2013

Homemade Taco Seasoning

With 5 kids, we had a lot of likes and dislikes.  The curly haired boy's favorite was beef stew, the little princess didn't like it.  Her favorite was steak, which we couldn't afford very often with 7 of us at the dinner table.  The blond boy loved chicken pot pie, Dave hated it.  The baby boy always chose mac and cheese and hot dogs, that combination makes me gag just thinking about it, we had it so often.  And the oldest boy loved salad.  I would cut three heads of romaine and he would eat two of them himself!
Some of my favorite sauce recipes, I have them taped inside my spice cabinet.  Taco spice is on the green sticky.

One thing everyone could agree on was taco night.  We would fry up some moose burger and use this seasoning mix,  I always had the spices on hand and it took seconds to measure it out, without the added salt and additives.  I still use this spice mix a couple times a month.  We have taco night, taco salad, shredded chicken for burritos or mix it with refried beans and make quesadillas.  You can make a big batch, but for me it is just as easy to measure it out each time.

Homemade Taco Mix
1 Tbsp. Chili powder
2 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. oregano

Mix together.  Use for one lb. ground meat, shredded chicken, or pork.

April 12, 2013   Daylight 14 hours, 54 minutes, 16 seconds   Temp. H 17/ L -12ºF

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Flank Steak with Balsamic Onions

Did you ever see the Alfred Hitchcock movie The Birds?  I did when I was a kid and it has scarred me for life.  As a result, I am always very kind to our wild birds, I feed them well, the expensive sunflower seed hearts, not that cheap mixed shit.  One time this winter our feed store was out of the preferred seed and Dave bought a mix of sunflower seeds and some black seed they were supposed to like.  They kicked all the black seed out and only ate the sunflower seeds.

Once in a while, when it is very cold and the birds need a lot of calories, or we (meaning Dave, 'cuz I don't do it) get a little slack and wait too long, one little bird pushes up the sliding window that releases the seed and gets stuck in the feeder.  I alway panic, knowing his little bird brothers, bird sisters, and bird cousins are going to dive bomb me next time I go outside.

So, with our unusually cold spring, the birds have been having a feeding frenzy on our feeder.  Dave often fills it twice a day, and I've added a new line item to our budget just to pay to keep the  darn thing full.

And what, you ask, does this have to do with flank steak?  Well, I had planned on Dave grilling a chicken dish I knew he would hate learn to love and I looked outside and could not bring myself to send the poor defenseless man out to the grill with a plate full of chicken and all those birds watching him.  I value his safety more than that.  After all, who is going to continue to shovel the driveway, since it won't quite snowing, if he is gone?  So I came up with plan B, flank steak.
You gotta love a man who will grill in the snow and likes cheap beer.

He grilled it, the birds sat in the tree and watched him, but I believe they never knew about the chicken plan because he was never attacked.  I'll bake the chicken tomorrow in the oven.

Flank Steak with Balsamic Onions
adapted from Weber Grilling

1 flank steak about 1.5-2 lbs. and about 3/4 inches thick
steak seasoning, I like Executive Chef
3/ 4 cup water
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. honey
1.5 tsp. tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 14 oz. pkg. frozen pearl onions, thawed
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
salt and pepper

Remove flank steak from refrigerator at least 30 minutes before grilling.  Sprinkle generously with steak seasoning.  Preheat grill.

In a medium saucepan mix water, vinegar, honey, tomato paste and bay leaf.  Bring mixture to a boil, add onions and return to boil.  Reduce temperature, cover pot and simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove cover and increase heat.  Boil to reduce liquid until about 5 Tbsp. of liquid remains and sauce is slightly thickened.  Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, grill flank steak over medium high heat.  We like about 7 minutes a side.  Remove from heat, tent with foil and let rest about 10 minutes.

Slice steak against grain.  Serve with balsamic onions on the side.

April 10, 2013     Daylight  14 hours, 40 min., 36 sec.    Temp.  H 2/ L -19 ºF

Monday, April 8, 2013

Fresh Strawberry Pie with no added sugar.

Stress cannot exist in the presence of pie.
David Mamet
Real strawberries are in the store now and I can't get enough.  I overload on strawberries for a while, take a bit of a break and go back at them once you can get them locally, like in August.

I learned this little trick from another blogger that posted on this blog Frugal by Choice, Cheap by Necessity.  This, oh so smart blogger uses the Simply Fruit spreadable fruit spread to sweeten cream cheese for frosting.  You can find the blog here.  I put some sweetened cream cheese on the bottom of the pie crust before I load it with strawberries, so I decided to sweeten with the simply fruit.  AWESOMENESS!

Then I used the rest of the jar, melted it, added a splash of fresh lemon juice and poured it over the top of the sliced strawberries.  It was so good, and I felt justified in having the second piece because it has no added sugar!  I call that success.

Fresh Strawberry Pie

1 baked pie crust, or graham cracker crust
8 oz. 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
1 10 oz. jar Simply Fruit spreadable fruit
2 pints fresh strawberries
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice.

Mix cream cheese with about 1/3 of the jar of simply fruit.  Spread into cooled pie crust or graham cracker crust.

Slice strawberries and arrange on top of cream cheese layer.

Add the rest of the jar of simply fruit to a small saucepan, add lemon juice.  Heat slowly to a thin consistency, spoon over strawberries, covering the whole pie.  Refrigerate until cold.

April 8, 2013     Daylight 14 hours, 26 minutes, 57 seconds   Temp. H 18/ L 5°F

Friday, April 5, 2013

Oven baked Onion Rings

I love fried food.  I could eat french fries, onion rings, donuts, corn dogs and deep fried cheesecake every day.  But I can't.  I want to fit into my jeans and I don't want a heart attack before I hit 60.  So I treat myself occasionally and then find a substitute for the other 200 days of the year.

I was craving a burger and onion rings.  It was a warmer day, it felt like spring and I wanted Dave to grill.  We made some moose burgers and then it hit me, I needed onion rings to go along with.  I thought about pulling the deep fryer out, but reminded myself of the deep fried ice cream I had last night when we went out to eat, so I thought I could come up with a lighter version.

This is an easy process.  You just set up three bowls; one with flour, one with buttermilk or beaten egg whites, and one with bread crumbs.  I used panko here because I wanted that crunch.

Cut your onions a good 1/4 inch thick and choose only the complete circles and thick cuts.  Save the rest for something else.  Dip the onion ring in the flour, then the buttermilk, back in the flour, buttermilk and then the panko.
Notice the sun?  Basic awesomeness.  This time of year I am so excited for sun.

Bake and it is that easy!

Now, they are not the same as the deep fried onion rings you get at a restaurant, or you could deep fry them yourself, but this is a delicious treat and one that you can have more often, maybe even every day.

Oven Baked Onion Rings

2 onions, peeled and sliced into 1/4" rings
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup butter milk (or use three beaten egg whites)
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4-1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (more if you like them spicy)
coarse salt

Preheat oven to 450ºF.  Place cookie sheet in oven while it heats up.

Add cayenne pepper to flour and mix.  Place in a bowl.  Put buttermilk in a separate bowl, and panko in a separate bowl.

Remove cookie sheet from oven, spray with cooking spray.

Dip onion rings, one at a time, in flour, then buttermilk, repeat flour and buttermilk dips, then cover in panko.  Place on hot cookie sheet.  Repeat with all the onion rings, laying them in a single layer on the cookie sheet.  You will not use all the onion.

Spray onions with cooking spray, this will help with browning, and sprinkle with coarse salt.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until onions are soft and breading is golden brown.

April 8, 2013  Daylight  hours,  minutes,  sec.  Temp.  H 19 /L -9 ºF

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Failed Quiche

This goes under the "What the hell was I thinking" column of my cooking experience.  I have a lot of those, usually I just keep them to myself, but what the hell, might as well share the joy.

We went to brunch for Easter.  Our family came, our oldest son, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, one of our nieces and her husband. And, other than the waiter giving me a funny look when I said "Yes, I do want a mimosa, but without the orange juice," it was a nice brunch.  We went home and played cards then watched some basketball.

I thought I would make a light dinner of quiche and salad.  I like to make it ahead of time, cool it, cut it and then warm in the microwave.  The pieces come out so much nicer that way.  I wrap the extra and leave them in the fridge for lunch the next day or two.

Well, I started with blind baking the crust.  I rolled it out and got it in the pan.  Then I folded the edge down half way....what was I thinking?  I blind baked the crust (so it doesn't get soggy), cooled it, put the add-in in and poured in the custard.  At least the custard that would fit, about 1/4 cup.  So I can't really call this quiche, but it was really good (what's not to love about bacon, cheese and pastry?) and now I have two cups of egg custard to do something with.  Any suggestions?


1 pastry crust, I used a store bought one, I was lazy

1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
8 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

I use 2 cups of add-ins.  This time I used:
1/2 cup bacon, chopped and fried crisp
1/2 cup spinach, frozen that was thawed and squeezed dry
1/2 cup mushrooms, sauteed
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

preheat oven to 400° F.  Lay pastry in pie pan (DON'T fold over the edge).  Line with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 15-20 minutes until crust is set and slightly browned.  Let cool 20-30 minutes.  Remove pie weights and parchment paper.

Choose add-ins.  I try to keep it to a maximum of 4 things totaling no more than 2 cups.
fry bacon, saute mushrooms, thaw spinach and squeeze dry, grate cheese.
Spread evenly over cooled crust.

Mix milk, cream, eggs, salt and pepper.

Place filled crust on baking sheet and place in oven, pour custard in shell.  Bake 40-50 minutes until custard is set and lightly browned.  You may need to place foil or a pastry protector over the edge of the pastry if it is getting too dark.

Remove from oven and cool completely before cutting.  Cut into serving sized and reheat in the microwave.

April 3, 2013     Daylight 13 hours, 52 minutes, 46 seconds   Temp. H 30/ L 3°F

Monday, April 1, 2013

Beer Braised Pork Loin with warm red cabbage

We just celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary.  We got married in Hawaii with our 5 kids, his mom and step-dad, and two good friends.  It is hard to believe so much time has gone by.  This kids all grew up and moved away, we've been through our share of experiences, some good, some not so good.  But I can honestly say, it has been the happiest 11 1/2 years of my life.

I love you honey.
My trusty cast iron pan adds nice color to the meat, then slips in the oven for roasting. 
We celebrated with this delicious pork roast.  It was a cinch to make, and it had lots of left-overs for lunch and open faced sandwiches for dinner later.  The warm cabbage-apple salad was also delicious, but there weren't any left-overs of that.  It was a wonderful dinner.

Beer Marinated Pork Roast
adapted from Bon Appetit, March 2013

  • 2lb. pork loin roast
  • 1/4 cup lager
  • 1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons (packed) brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar, divided
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 medium red cabbage, cored, cut into 1/2-inch strips
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

  • Place pork in a large resealable plastic bag. Whisk lager, soy sauce, brown sugar, and 1 tablespoon vinegar in a small bowl; pour into bag with pork and seal. Chill, turning occasionally, for at least 4 and up to 24 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 400°. Heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Remove pork from marinade, allowing any excess to drip off (reserve marinade). Cook pork, turning, until browned on all sides, 8-10 minutes.
  • Transfer skillet to oven and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of pork registers 140°, 15-20 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let rest for at least 10 minutes. Pour reserved marinade into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until slightly thickened, 5-8 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, melt butter in another large skillet over medium heat. Add cabbage, apple, bay leaves, and 1 cup water; season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing occasionally, until cabbage is softened, 15-20 minutes. Add remaining 1 teaspoon vinegar and toss to combine.
  • Slice pork and serve with cabbage mixture and sauce.

    April 1, 2013     Daylight 13 hours, 39 minutes, 26 sec.    Temp. H 37/ L 7°F