Thursday, May 30, 2013

Quinoa Salad with Almonds and Cherries and the beginning of Salad Summer


I decided my focus would be on salads this summer.  Last summer was pie but my big girl pants are still a little tight from the feasting that started in November when the blond boy and the DIL came home moved to high gear over the Christmas holidays with the curly haired boy,the baby boy, and the chicks, so salad sounded healthier.  Little did I know how traumatic this decision would be.
I chose a nice, crunchy, fresh salad that included butter lettuce to get things started.  I had everything on my list and headed to the grocery store.  There I am innocently looking in the produce aisle looking for butter lettuce and there it is.  LIVE lettuce.  You get to take it home and kill it before you put it in your salad.  WTH?  I like to buy my food DEAD.  My meat: dead, my corn and beans: dead, my lettuce: dead.  Why would I want to take it home and kill it before I eat it?

Now, don't get me wrong.  I'm not opposed to OTHER people killing my food for me.  I eat meat, fish, and chicken, but it looks like meat, not the animal it was, by the time I get it.  My mom will tell stories about me fishing in Colorado without a hook.  So why would I want to kill my lettuce?  I want to buy dead lettuce.

Well, I couldn't get over it so I changed the salad for the week.  I bought dead cherries (at $6.00 a pound in Fairbanks!  Don't tell my husband), I had quinoa already dead at home, and a few other things to make this delicious salad.  It is full of fiber and protein so the perfect thing for a light lunch.

Enjoy.

Ingredients

1 cup quinoa
3 tablespoons almond oil
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cherries, pitted and cut in quarters
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
¼ cup sliced or slivered almonds, toasted
1 English cucumber, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 tablespoons thinly sliced mint leaves

Directions

1. In a medium saucepan set over high heat, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add the quinoa, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until the quinoa is tender and has absorbed all the water, about 12 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Transfer the quinoa to a large baking sheet or plate and spread it out to cool to room temperature.
2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk the almond oil with the olive oil, champagne vinegar and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, combine the cooled quinoa with the cherries, feta cheese, almonds, cucumber, parsley and mint. Re-whisk the dressing and pour it over the salad. Toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then serve.

May 30, 2013    Daylight  We are at the point where the sun doesn't really set. So the sun will rise at 3:37 a.m. and set at 12:02 the next day!  It is kind of dusky from midnight to 3:00 a.m.
                                Temp. H 82/ L 54°F

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Jalapeno Poppers for the Grill


Poppers ready for the grill

Names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.

One of the things that took up a lot of my time, when I was a principal, was discipline.  I had a school of about 550 (give or take 50 students at any time) and some students that had to make due with very little at home.  It was always interesting.

One week I had an intern.  He was spending a year at a high school, but got to spend a week in an elementary school to discover the difference.  He would sit in the corner of my office and watch as I talked to students about their choices.  He was always amazed at the 6th grade boys and how they would cry when I made them call their moms and tell on themselves.  That was a better consequence than the recess they would have to miss.

One day a little boy came crying because Mike had told him that Miss Wilson, our day custodian, cut boys' wieners off.  I told the intern he could deal with this one because, well, he had a wiener and he could talk to Mike about why it was not o.k. to say things like that.

Intern:"What am I supposed to say to Mike?"

Me: "Ask him why he said Miss Wilson cut wieners off."

Intern: "I can't say 'wiener' to a second grader."

Me: "Why not, he said it, and then have him call his mom and tell her what he said."

Intern: "I can't call his mom and say wiener."

Me: "You don't say it, you make Mike tell her, then you talk to her and tell her what the consequence is."

Intern: "I can't say wiener."

Me: "You just said it to me, and you have one, I don't even have one."

Intern: "I'll watch you do it.  I just can't"

So, I talked to Mike and asked him "Why are you telling kids Miss Wilson will cut their wiener off?"
He cried, said he didn't know and we called his mom so he could tell her what she said.  The intern was amazed by the whole process and now is a principal of a high school and I'm sure he never has to talk about wieners with his students.  Ah, the good ol' days, I sure don't miss that.

This recipe has nothing to do with wieners, but it is a good starter if you are grilling wieners for dinner (the hot dog kind).  I make a big batch ahead of time and have dave grill them just as people are arriving and pouring a drink. They are creamy, spicy, salty and delicious.
Jalapenos stuffed and ready to be wrapped with bacon.

Jalapeno Poppers
12 larger jalapenos
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup shredded mexican blend cheese
12 pieces bacon, cut in half

Cut stems off jalapenos, cut in half and scoop out seeds and veins using a small spoon.  Set aside.

Mix cream cheese and mexican blend cheese together.

Spread bacon on a microwave safe plate, covered with paper towel.  Cook 2-3 minutes until starting to cook, but still soft.

Stuff jalapeno halves with cheese blend.  Wrap with bacon and secure with toothpicks.

Grill until bacon is cooked, cheese is melted and jalapenos are soft.

Makes 24 pieces

May 28, 2013    Daylight 20 hours, 12 minutes, 27 seconds   Temp. H 82/ L 52ºF

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Tornado Shelter

My baby brother and his trickster wife!

I just spent a wonderful week with family in Kansas.  My youngest nephew graduated from H.S. and Dave and I went down to help celebrate.  We stayed with my baby brother and his saint of a wife, my mom and her husband were there too.  To say we are a loud obnoxious family is something of an understatement.  I always feel sorry for my sister in law, Lisa, when we are all together invading her house.
An Alaskan dinner in Kansas: King Crab, deep fried halibut, and salmon two ways.

We were in Kansas during prime tornado weather.  While we were in graduation a tornado tore through Wichita Kansas only 2 hours East of us, and the Oklahoma tornado was just a day later.  So I want to say that I totally understand the gravity and danger of a tornado.  I grew up spending nights ready to head down to the cellar, or in the cellar because of a tornado.  But my husband did not, and we just couldn't resist pulling this prank on him.
Dave with my brother's horses dogs.

In Kansas, every town has a tornado siren.  In the town I grew up in, it went off every day at noon, then if ever there was a tornado sighting.  In the town my brother now lives in the siren goes of every Saturday at noon.  When I found this out I had a plan.  I told my sister in law and my mom when the siren goes off we need to act like it is a tornado and tell Dave to head to the cellar, we had Thursday and Friday without a siren so he wouldn't know this was a  usual event.  On Saturday, we were sitting around the kitchen table playing cards.  At 12:00 the siren went off. My sister in law heard it and, with panic in her face and voice, yelled "Tornado Siren, everyone downstairs!"
She jumped out of her seat and headed to the cellar, Dave on her heels.  We jumped up, but stayed in the kitchen laughing.  When they got downstairs she yelled, "Get under the steps."  Dave replied that he had never done this before and turned to me, but I wasn't there.
"Quick, get under the steps." Lisa yelled.
But Dave wouldn't go without me.  So Lisa told him it was a joke.  He came upstairs and we all laughed.  Dave had even grabbed his glass of water on the way down in case we were stuck in the cellar a long time and needed water!  Funny how quickly your mind can think of things like that.
My beautiful niece

So, while we all thought it was the funniest thing ever because we had lived through tornado watches before and Dave hadn't, I did learn something.  My husband really does have my back.  He wouldn't go under the stairs without me.  However, I do know that I really need to be ready for a payback, because it will come, and it will be a good one.  I only hope I can be as good a sport about it as he was.
Dave and my other niece at the graduation party

My nephew, the graduate

An my sister in law?  I don't feel quite so sorry for her around my family because I know she can dish it out with the best of them.
My sister in law and my nephew.

May 23, 2013    Daylight 19 hours, 39 minutes, 17 seconds   Temp. H 64/ L 43ºF

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Barbie Shots - Drink of the Week


This drink is in honor of my dear friend Donna.  I met Donna when I transferred to the school she was teaching in.  My children were starting school and I wanted to be at school with them (Yes, I was one of those mothers).  We had classrooms just a few doors down from each other.

Now, I can't say we became fast friends.  It took us awhile.  I think I am the kind of person that has to grow on you.  I like to say I am an acquired taste, like blue cheese or oaky wine. Well, Donna wasn't having much of that.  We were polite and friendly, like with any other stranger you run into.

The next year, I adopted my daughter, she was the same age as Donna's daughter.  We decided to pool resources and lead a Girl Scout troop together.  We planned, met with the girls, organized outings, wrote letters to parents, organized cookie sales, and became friends.  We began to sew together on Friday nights, walk together in the mornings during the summer, then we began to meet on Saturday mornings for coffee.  Donna is such a dear friend.

Years after we became friends we were talking and Donna informed me the reason she was a little cool to the idea of a friendship with me was because she thought I was a Barbie.  Now, what the hell did that mean?  So I asked her in my kindest voice, "What the hell does that mean?"

"Well, you know, you always had your hair just so, and you always dressed nice, and you always wore make-up.  You know, a Barbie."

Hmm, I sometimes wonder about my self-esteem if this is one of my dearest and best friends.

Well, I think she has since learned there is more to me than hairspray and lipstick (ya, like a mouth like a sailor, neuroses left and right and a really warped sense of humor).  But I can't let it all show at the same time or people will be banging down the door wanting to be my friend.

So, here  is to Donna, and her continuing friendship with her idea of a Barbie!

Bottoms up.

Barbie Shots
adapted from Lovelyish

1 oz. Malibu coconut rum
1 oz. vodka
1 oz. cranberry juice
1 oz. orange juice

Add ice to shaker, pour in rum, vodka, and both juices, shake until very cold, strain into glass.

May 16, 2013     Daylight  18 hours, 51 minutes, 5 seconds   Temp. H 55/ L 36°F

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Pork Sandwiches


So I had to travel for work.  I went to a great training.  One of the sectionals was "At the Movies." These presenters take movie clips and then use that clip to train on one of the things you should do or shouldn't do.  It is entertaining, funny, and they get their point across without being to lecturey (spell check doesn't think that is a real word, but after 28 years in education, I know it is).

One of the clips came from the movie "The Shining."  I've never seen the movie because I'm not allowed to see scary movies.  If you've seen the movie you will know what part I am talking about, if you haven't I can't give you any more details, sorry.

So this little boy is riding his Big Wheels through the halls of the empty hotel his family is babysitting for the winter.  They are the only people in the hotel.  So, what a surprise when he comes to the dead end hallway and there are two girls, dressed in old fashioned dresses, standing there.  They say something like "come play with us, forever and ever and ever..."

Then there is a lot of blood and, I think, body pieces all over.  I don't know what happens next because I looked down.  I'm not allowed to look at movies like that, and I was staying in a hotel room BY MYSELF.  I don't even remember what point the presenters were trying to make with this clip because  I was so upset by the whole bloody scene.

That night, after I checked the closet and under the bed, I finally drifted off to sleep.  About 1:30 in the morning there were sirens, flashing lights, and all kinds of noise on the street, 10 floors below my window.  I woke up, but nope, I did not get out of bed to check because those damn girls in the old dresses just might be the cause of all the noise, and I wasn't getting out of bed in case they were under there ready to grab my feet.  You know those covers protect you from all the monsters in the night.  I was pretty tired the next day between the noise and the bad dreams from that stupid movie clip.

I made these sandwiches for dinner the other night.  Dave grilled the meat while I put the rest of it  together.  We sat down to watch a movie...only G rated movies for me, thank-you.


Pork Pita with Tahini Sauce

for Tahini Sauce

  • 1/2 cup plain 2% Greek-style yogurt 
  • 1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • garlic clove, minced
  • Dash of salt

  • for Pork
  • 4 (4 oz.) pork loin chops, I just buy a pork loin and cut chops
  • Executive chef seasoning, or other steak seasoning
to finish sandwiches
4 pita halves, pocket carefully opened
12 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
4 lettuce leaves
12 slices cucumber
2 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley

Mix ingredients for Tahini Sauce.  Put in refrigerator.

Pound pork to about 1/4 inch thick.  Season generously with steak seasoning.  Grill over med.-high heat 3-4 minutes per side.  Remove from heat and let rest.

Carefully open pita pocket, spread generously with Tahini Sauce, add tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber, and parsley dividing evenly between pockets. Add pork and serve.

May14, 2013     Daylight 18 hours, 37 minutes, 07 seconds   Temp. H 43/ L 27°F

Friday, May 10, 2013

Butterfinger Martini


It has been strongly suggested by a co-worker that Drink of the Week needs to make a return.  it has been a stressful spring.  It is still snowing (and it is freaking May, Mother Nature!), I work for a school district and we are looking at MAJOR cuts (like many school districts across our nation), Dave and I are working on our house, together, in the same room.  Isn't that enough?

So I am taking the suggestion (thanks Jim) and I am reinstating Drink of the Week.  Please remember to drink responsibly, don't drink and drive, blah, blah, blah...your adults you know the drill.

Because I am in the last week of the work-out/weight loss challenge at the gym I go to, and because I lost no weight what-so-ever, I chose a drink that was SO low in calories (not!).  Enjoy.

Butterfinger Martini
1 oz. Bailey's Irish Cream
1 oz. Butterscotch Schnapps
1/2 oz. Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur
1.5 oz. milk
Hershey's Chocolate syrup

Swirl glass and rim with chocolate syrup.  Pour the rest of the ingredients into cocktail shaker with ice.  Shake until cold.  Strain into prepared glass.  Enjoy.

May 10, 2013   Daylight  18 hours, 9 minutes, 4 seconds    Temp. H 56/ L 34ºF

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Compound Butter and the Joy of an Airline upgrade

Roasted garlic, hot from the oven ready to spread on bread or mix with butter.
I just returned from a training trip for work.  It was in California so the weather was better than here.  Dave kept sending me pictures of how it continued to snow at our house while I was in 70+ degree weather.  I felt very sad for him (not really because I was in the sun, and it is all about me, but I have to say that I was sad for him so he feels better).

The day before I left, I checked in online and printed my boarding passes.  I was so excited to get a free upgrade!  I was in seat 2 D!  Well, I thought, that MVP does me some good after all.  A free upgrade!  I was on cloud 9.

The next morning, I was still pretty happy, started to board the plane and I knew something was wrong.  This was not a real airplane, it was more like a culvert with wings. You know, the kind that doesn't fit up to the walkway, there are only two seats on each side, and the stewardess gives you your choice of water or apple juice.

I boarded and much to my disappointment I discovered there was NO first class.  O.K. so much for the upgrade. Even the seats were smaller than a real airplane.  At least I had the seat next to me empty...for a while.  The last man on the plane was a rather large gentleman and HE SAT DOWN RIGHT NEXT TO ME.  I'm not trying to be mean, but he took up his seat and about 1/3 of mine (now, in his defense they were little seats).  And, to make everything more pleasant he smelled...like B.O. and fried onions.  It was the longest 2 1/2 hours of my life (almost, except for childbirth, the night I thought Dave was going to kill me, the "nice little hike" we took with Zach's boyscout troop though waist deep snow...).  Well, I lived and I will never make the assumption that 2D is first class.

So, we (meaning Dave since I was gone) continue to work on our house and Dave is grilling dinner almost every night.  Hasn't started to complain yet and I'm keeping it going as long as possible.  I'll feed him a steak often so he won't start complaining!
Garlic and thyme butter rolled and wrapped ready for the fridge.  
One of the things I like to do is make up a couple batches of compound butters.  I add roasted garlic, herbs, and spices.  I tend to keep it pretty basic, roasted garlic, thyme, chipotle in adobo...

So here is the "recipe" for two of the butters I have in my fridge right now.  I use it on bread, grilled beef, chicken, or salmon, on veggies, and as a finisher for pan sauce.  Once you have it on hand you will use it on everything!  Everyone knows that everything is better with butter.
Dave's steak finished with garlic-thyme butter.


Roasted Garlic Butter
1 head garlic
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 cup butter, softened

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Cut top 1/3 off the head of garlic.  Place garlic on aluminum foil.  Drizzle with olive oil. Wrap tightly with foil.  Bake 1 hour.

Remove from oven and let cool completely.

Place softened butter in small bowl.  Squeeze roasted garlic out of paper shells into bowl (it just squishes out easily).  Mix with the back of a spoon or gently with a hand mixer.

Roll into a cylinder.  Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  Keeps in the fridge for 2 weeks or in freezer for 6 months.

Roasted Garlic-Thyme Butter
Same as above and add 1 Tbsp. finely chopped thyme when mixing in the garlic.

May 8, 2013     Daylight 17 hours, 55 minutes, 1 second   Temp. H45/L 21°F

Monday, May 6, 2013

Manilla Clams with Bacon and Onions and the night I almost died

So I have to add a new label tag.  It is a "feel very sorry for my husband" tag.  I have to do this because: 1) have you met me?  You should really feel sorry for my husband, 2) I do shit all the time that he just shakes his head at and lovingly just walks away, 3) I'm just a little neurotic...just a little.

So, I'm telling on myself, and if I've already told this story, just skip to the recipe, another reason I need that tag, I forget what I've already posted.  This is the story of the time my husband plotted to murder me.

 Several years ago I had an issue with my neck.  It took the doctors several months to figure out I had a ruptured disk.  At first they thought it was a pulled muscle, then maybe I needed a chiropractic adjustment, then a strained muscle (what is the difference between a pulled muscle and a strained muscle anyway?).  So one of the medications prescribed to me was Flexeril.  I took it only at night so I could sleep.  I'd pop my pill and head to bed.  Well, one of the side effects for me was very vivid dreams (read nightmares) and so I would toss and turn all night keeping my husband awake.

Dave played basketball on Wednesday nights and his game this particular week was at 9:00, past my bedtime.  I took my meds, kissed him goodnight, and drifted off to a fitful slumber.  About 11:00 I heard a noise downstairs and it woke me up.  I listened carefully and came to the conclusion that Dave was home and was plotting my murder (what!  how did I get there so quickly?  it had to be the meds).  I laid in bed SWEATING knowing that any second, Dave would come upstairs and kill me in my sleep.

Then I decided that I wasn't going down without a fight.  I would go downstairs, confront him, make a huge mess, write his name in my blood on the wall so everyone would know it was him (yes, really...I had a plan) and at least he wouldn't get away with it.

Now, before I go downstairs, let's put some things in perspective.  Dave doesn't even raise his voice to me.  He disagrees, states (what he thinks) are the facts and stops.  I accuse him of yelling, but that is just because he doesn't seem to understand reality (my way of thinking).  So a violent murder at the hands of my husband is unlikely, although I'm sure someone with less self control might consider it if they had to live with me.

So I stormed downstairs, ready to make a mess, wake the neighbors and not die without a fight.  I stomped into the living room and asked (rather calmly, I'm sure) "What do you think you are doing?"
Dave was lying on the sofa reading a Nicholas Sparks book , he looked up and said "Um, reading.  Are you O.K.?"

It was at that moment I knew I was completely over the edge.  I was crazy!  "I'm fine," I stammered and headed back up the stairs.  I was mortified.  Where had that thought come from?  

The next day, I told my school nurse (I'm sure she was convinced she was working with a lunatic).  She told me to call my doctor and tell Dave.  I called my dr., he told me to bring hime the rest of the meds and he would give me something else.  It took 3 days for me to tell Dave.  

Me: "Dave, sit down, we need to talk."

Dave: "What is going on?"

Me:  I tell him the whole story as I cry uncontrollably.

Dave: "Oh, is that all?  I thought you were going to ask for a divorce!"

Really.  How could I divorce a man who reads Nicholas Sparks and put up with me?  Again, feel very sorry for my husband.

Because I am haunted by many memories that this.  I often try to make special treats for Dave.  I know it is just one little way to keep him happy, and not plotting my demise.  I don't eat clams, so this is all for him.  Love you honey.



Manilla Clams with Bacon and Onions
1 lb. clams, scrubbed
1/2 sweet onion, diced
3 pieces Canadian bacon
1/2 red pepper, diced (it looks really pretty, but Dave doesn't like peppers so I don't add them anymore)
1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
1 Tbsp. olive oil or coconut oil

Saute onion in oil over med. high heat until tender, add bacon and cook until bacon is slightly crisp.  
Add broth and clams, cover.  Cook until clams open about 5-7 minutes.  Remove clams, place them in a bowl and cover, boil broth until reduced by half.  
Pour broth, onions, and bacon over clams.  Serve with crusty bread.

May 6, 2013     Daylight 17 hours, 40 minutes, 58 seconds   Temp. H 43/ L 21 ºF


Friday, May 3, 2013

Cherry Tart and a Weight Loss Challenge


Hey, did you miss me?  I was gone on a trip for work.  I had planned all these posts and thought I would have them ready and scheduled and they would just pop up, but I am really not that organized so I just went without posting for a week.  I know, you missed me, you didn't know what to do with yourself, and I promise never to do that again, until the next time.

I signed up for a "get fit, weight loss challenge" where I go work-out in the morning.  And because I am so committed, I immediately began to crave, bake, and eat the most fattening food I could get my hands on.  Really.

Now, I don't know why I am sabotaging myself, but boy, does it taste good!  I got on the scale and realized I really needed to get serious, I only have 3 weeks left of the challenge.  So, I made a cherry tart.  Now, come on, it is made with fruit and eggs for protein...ya, I suck at this weight loss challenge thing.  But this tart is delicious.

I used frozen cherries, you could use fresh but the fresh cherries we get are about $8 a pound right now and once we do get reasonably priced fresh cherries I just eat them fresh, they are so good.  Frozen works just fine.

Cherry Tart
adapted from La Tartine Gourmand

1 pastry crust, blind baked and slightly cooled
24 oz. frozen cherries, thawed, drained, and cut in half
2 eggs
1 tsp. lemon thyme, finely chopped
zest of one lemon
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 400º F.  Place crust in fluted tart pan, line with parchment and fill with pie weights or beans.  Bake 15 minutes, remove beans and parchment, cook for 5 minutes longer.
Set oven to 350º F.
Cut cherries in half.  Place cherries in baked crust.
Mix eggs, lemon thyme, zest and sugar together, pour over cherries.  Bake 35-40 minutes or until center of tart is set.
May 3, 2013     Daylight 17 hours, 19 minutes, 53 seconds   Temp.  H 37/ L 25ºF

AND IT IS STILL SNOWING...not that I'm complaining or anything