Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Spiced Pecans - Happy Halloween!


So, the baby boy and his chick are moving home for a couple of years.  They are going to attend the University of Alaska and live with us.  We have always told our kids they can live at home for free if they are going to school, and with a tuition waiver for the baby, it is a wonderful way to finish his bachelor's degree! (this is a little gift from God, for the baby and for me)

To say I am a little excited is an understatement!  Feel very sorry for my husband - and my co-workers.  I do tend to perseverate on things and with my excitement, I do believe I am almost unbearable. (no, I am not sending a picture every day to the baby, counting down until they get on the ferry, that is someone else hijacking my phone) Ahhhh, it is what it is - it's what you do with it that counts.  So I am trying to be quiet (and just perseverate in my head), and I'm taking my co-workers a Halloween gift.

We had a busy weekend, Dave cleaned out the playroom and put together shelving.  I am moving ALL my dishes onto two units and cleaning out the back bedroom closets (yes, they all were full of dishes, don't judge I know it is an illness).  He is also moving some of the DILs treasures we were storing in the back bedrooms and organizing his hunting/camping gear on some other shelves he put together.
The playroom after Dave cleaned it out (it used to be a garage)

The start of shelving - Dave working in the garage

This is Dave's "stop taking pictures of me or I'll break your camera" look.

Shelving in the playroom a.k.a. the dish room
One closet emptied of dished, three to go...

The back two bedrooms are now known as 'the duplex' since the kids are moving home.  One room is the bedroom for the kids, the other room we've made into a t.v. room for them.  That way if they want to play a video game, have friends over, or just get away from us they have a place to go.  Dave can watch football on Sundays and BB (baby boy) can play games if he wants.  If we all want to be together we can, in the family room.

I know having kids back in the house after 4 years will be an adjustment for us and for them.  They have been on their own and now they are back home (And the poor chick!  She is leaving her family to come here.  Talk about change in environments).  I'm trying to think of ways to help all of us with this transition...any suggestions?
Two of the finished gifts for work.

So, back to the nuts (not me, the treats).  We were very busy all weekend and I wanted to make a treat so I made spiced nuts.  They are an easy, quick, delicious addition to salads, tops of muffins, a cheese tray, or just by themselves.  The perfect little gift.

Spiced Pecans
Adapted from Taste of Home, November

1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 inch piece gingerroot, peeled and sliced
1 Tbsp. water
2 tsp. hot pepper sauce, I used Franks
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
3 cups pecans
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. kosher salt

Preheat oven to 325°F.  Grease a foil-lined 15x10 baking pan.  In a large saucepan, combine the first seven ingredients; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; simmer 2-3 minutes or until syrupy, stirring occasionally.  Remove slices of gingerroot.

Add pecans, stirring until completely covered with syrup.  Pour onto prepared baking pan and spread out in single layer.  Roast for 20-25 minutes or until toasted, stirring several times.

In the meantime, mix 1/4 cup sugar, 2 Tbsp. cinnamon and 1 tsp. kosher salt.
Remove from oven and sprinkle with sugar/cinnamon/salt mixture.

 Cool completely.  Store in airtight container.
Happy Halloween!

October 30, 2013   Daylight  8 hrs. 1 min. 13 sec.   Temp. H 32/ L 21°F

Monday, October 28, 2013

Easy Nutella Cookies



It is a good thing we have Fridays.  My brain must have been full last Friday and just couldn't hold anything else.

I do a lot on the weekends to help myself get through the week without using up valuable thinking space...
 -I prep my lunches as much as possible, cooking and freezing chicken, cutting veggies, measuring out my yogurt for my morning snack
-I choose all my clothes on Sunday and hang them on a butler hook on the outside of my closet door so all I have to do is put them on, no time having to think about what I am going to wear
-My bag is in the entry and all I have to do is grab it on my way out
You get the picture.

But last Friday, wow.  I have been learning a lot with my new position and have spent most days reading or doing on-line tutorials on how to use a new computer program.  Then Dave was outside working on the wood pile and I was inside doing one thing or another for the duplex (that's what my BIL calls the change in the downstairs for the kids coming home).  All in all a busy week.

Well, here was Friday morning. I had showered, I was dressed, I came downstairs to grab my lunch and go.  I had a big meeting that day with my big boss and the president of the university I work for, so I wanted to look good.  I was rocking this beautiful purple dress and and black and white patterned jacket. I walked into the kitchen where my husband was getting coffee.
"Did you forget to put something on?" he asked.
"No, what?" I said as I looked down...shoes, tights, dress, jacket - all were accounted for.
"Um, you don't have a bra on."
"Oh Shit!"  I ran upstairs, got undressed, got dressed - with the bra this time - and was 10 minutes late to work.  So much for having the world by the tail that morning.

Now, how could he tell that I was missing my bra when I had a jacket on?  (The girls must be hanging a little lower than they used to.)

So this weekend, I'm didn't learn anything new.  I'm took lots of naps and on Sunday, when I chose my clothes for the week, I hung the proper underclothes with them.  Obviously, my brain can't be trusted.

In dire times, Nutella is the go-to health restorative food of choice.  It only makes sense to make some form of Nutella cookies...

Easy Nutella Cookies
1 cup Nutella
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 325°F.  Mix all ingredients together.  Scoop onto parchment covered cookies sheet.
Bake 6-10 minutes.
Makes 12 cookies


October 28, 2013   Daylight 8 hrs. 14 min. 43 sec.   Temp. H 43/ L 34°F

Friday, October 25, 2013

Pork Chili

We have been having the most fantastic fall I can ever remember. It is relatively warm and mostly sunny during of the day. We might even make it to Halloween without snow!  I have never experienced a Halloween in Alaska without snow, but this could be the first.

Dave has been finishing up his fall outdoor chores (think wood here) and had 4 cords delivered this week.  He cut, split and stacked the wood with the help of his brother.  While they are outside working, I am inside making dinner.

 I had planned on fish for dinner, but knew that wouldn't be filling enough for hungry, wood-stacking men.  So I improvised.  The result was pretty tasty, if I do say so myself.  I am ALWAYS a cook by the recipe kind of person, with the exception of a few family favorites.  So, to be faced with dinner and not a plan is way out of my comfort zone.  I ALWAYS plan, and if I don't have a plan, the plan is to go out to dinner (my back-up plan).  But here I stood, with pork and some inspiration (o.k. not a lot of inspiration, but it worked).

Dave and my BIL both deemed it very good (even after Dave filled his with pepper-jack cheese and corn chips).  I ate mine with a dollop of sour cream and later I thought avocado would have been good on it.  It was warm, filling and I'll make it again during the winter.

Pork Chili

2 Tbsp. oil
2 lbs. pork tenderloin, silver skin and fat removed and cut into 1" chunks
1 onion, medium dice
1 Tbsp. chili powder, more or less to taste
1 quart jar of homemade canned roasted tomatoes with garlic, you can use 28 oz. can tomatoes with garlic
1 cup chicken broth
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can corn, drained and rinsed

Heat oil in dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pan.  Brown meat on all sides (I do this in two batches so the meat browns instead of boiling in it's own juices).  Add onions, cook 5 minutes or until softened.  Add chili powder and cook 1 minute more, chili powder should be very fragrant.  Add tomatoes and chicken stock.  Cover and cook on low for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  Add beans and corn, heat through.  Serve with sour cream, cheese, tortilla chips, or corn bread.

October 25, 2013   Daylight 8 hrs. 34 min. 56 sec.     Temp. H 36/ L 23°F

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Cranberry Liqueur

Two quarts of cranberry liqueur ready to cure for 3 weeks.

I had a hard day.
I had to go to the dentist and have a filling replaced.  That filling was 40 years old, I was attached and I think the dentist has it out for me because I asked her if she was 12 the first time I met her.  Needless to say, it didn't go well, I cried, sweated bullets, had to have my husband leave work and come sit with me.  How embarrassing.

Then, Riley, my little dachshund, is not house broken so he has to wear a shirt so he won't 'go' in the house.  Tonight after dinner, and after he had been outside TWICE, he pooped in his shirt!  I had to get the damn poopy shirt off over his head, get him outside, get the mess cleaned up and then get his butt washed when he came in.  Sometimes I wonder if I like that dog at all.
Riley in his clean shirt...after the poop incident.

So, I don't feel well (actually I just don't feel my cheek, tongue or top of my mouth), and I had poop duty.  So I didn't feel much like baking.  I just wanted a drink.  Which reminded me that I wanted to make some cranberry liqueur.  So I did.

After our house fire 12 years ago, our neighbor took us in for a couple of days until we got our apartments (yes it took two apartments because we had 5 kids at home at the time).  One of the things our dear neighbor did was hand us a glass of her homemade cranberry liqueur each evening so we could relax after another hard day of dealing with all your worldly possessions going up in smoke.  It was a little glass of heaven each evening before bed.

I wanted to make some this year to have on hand for the holidays.  It is so good on its own, but it is also very good mixed with champagne, in a Cosmo, or mixed with vodka and some sprite.  I am using some of my wild Alaskan cranberries, but you can use the cranberries you buy at the store.  It is a beautiful color and a sweet-tart flavor.  It also makes nice gifts if you can bear to part with any.

It almost makes up for cleaning up a poopy dog and crying in the dentist's office
Weighing my cranberries.

Cooking cranberries, water, and sugar.

Dividing the cranberry mixture between two quart jars.
Cranberry Liqueur

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries
  • 4 cups vodka 
  1. Combine sugar, cranberries and water in a medium saucepan; cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until sugar dissolves and cranberry skins pop, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and cool completely.  Add vodka.
  2. Pour the vodka mixture into clean jars; secure with lids. I divide the cranberry/sugar mixture into two quart canning jars, then add two cups of vodka into each jar.  Let stand 3 weeks in a cool, dark place, shaking every other day.
  3. Strain the cranberry mixture through a cheesecloth-lined sieve into a bowl, and discard solids. Carefully pour liqueur into clean bottles or jars.  
  4. Note: Liqueur can be stored refrigerated or at room temperature for up to a year. Like it is going to last that long.
October 22, 2014   Daylight 8 hrs, 55 min, 9 sec.     Temp. H 34/ L 23°F

Friday, October 18, 2013

S'moretini - Drink of the Week


Dave loves a fire.  He often has a fire in the evening in our back yard.  He sits out there, in the dark, listens to the crackle and contemplates life.

I don't get it.  All winter we have a fire going in the wood stove in the house.  Why sit outside in the cold to enjoy something already going on inside?  That is o.k.  I'll sit in the house, in the warm, listen to the crackle and contemplate life in my own way (usually with a drink).
Dave, BIL and Chick enjoying a fire last winter

In the summer and early fall the little boys often come over in the evening to the fire and we have s'mores.  It is a lot of fun, we visit, catch up with what they are doing, how school is going, and talk to the boys' parents.  It is a fun evening.  Sometimes the boys' mom requests a s'mores evening and Dave is always ready to assist with the fire.  It only works down to a certain temperature.  When it gets too cold the marshmallows cool off too fast, the chocolate freezes and doesn't melt, your fingers are too cold to eat the s'more, so we put away the supplies until the next spring.

Well, we have been very lucky this year.  October is unusually warm, we are even breaking records, so the evening fires with s'mores are lasting longer than usual.  This week, when the boys come over for their treat, I'll offer a grown-up version to their mom.  We can all sit by the fire, have a treat, and contemplate what a wonderful life we all have.

S’moretini 
1/2 ounce marshmallow vodka (or vanilla, whipped cream or cake flavored vodka)
1/2 ounce Godiva chocolate liqueur
1/4 ounce Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur
3/4 ounce cream/half and half
chocolate syrup or hot fudge
graham cracker crumbs
marshmallow cream for glass rimming
marshmallows
Dip the rim of you glass in a bit of marshmallow cream, then dip into graham cracker crumbs. Pour about 1/2 teaspoon chocolate fudge into the bottom of the glass. Combine vodka, Baileys, Godiva and cream in a shaker with ice and shake for 15 seconds. Strain into glass. Top with marshmallows skewered on a toothpick.
For 8 shooters or 2 martinis, you will need: 4 ounces of marshmallow vodka, 4 ounces of Godiva chocolate liqueur, 2 ounces of Bailey’s and about 6 ounces of milk. Measurements obviously may change depending on your own preferred tastes.
Note: if you don’t have any leftover marshmallow cream for glass rimming, I think something sticky like maple syrup or agave will work.
October 18, 2013   Daylight 9 hrs., 22 min., 2 sec.  Temp.  H 50/ L 36°F

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Warm Brussels Sprout Slaw

 The baby boy and his chick are moving home to go to school!  I can't tell you how excited I am.  After three years of having a big empty, lonely house, we are getting kids back.

Now, because we have been on our own for a while, and the baby has been on his own, I know there will be some space issues with all of us, so I am in major planning and reorganizing mode with our house.  One of the back bedrooms is being converted into a t.v. room for the baby and his chick, that way they can have some 'alone' time or entertain friends without us around (and we can watch what we want and not be kept up into all hours of the night).  We'll add a desk in there for studying.  So essentially, the kids will get one end of the house with a bedroom, t.v. room, and bath.  The living room, dining room, and kitchen are in the middle of the house, and our bedroom and family room are on the other side of the house.  We can be together when we want and have some privacy when we want.

The kids are packing up, even as we speak, and will get on the Alaska Ferry November 8.  They should arrive in Fairbanks the 11th or 12th (I'm praying for mild weather and no snowstorms then).  To say I am a little hyper about it is putting it mildly.  My poor husband.  We have been cleaning carpets, buying and re-arranging furniture, decorating, planning, and cleaning.  I'm tired just watching Dave work! (Only half joking here, the half about me being tired)...

That on top of Dave putting up the last 3 1/2 cords of wood, and both of us doing what just needs to be done has made for a busy couple of weeks.  Time for some "stick to your ribs" kind of meals that are warm, filling, and keep you going.

I made brussels sprout slaw.  Dave claims he doesn't like brussels sprouts, so I disguised them, he ate them and declared them good...then I told him what they were.  And he has said he would happily eat them this way again.  Right now, I am trying to feed him only things I know he really likes, he is working his tail off.
Warm Brussels Sprout Slaw
1 lb. brussel sprouts, sliced thin to make shreds
3 slices bacon, sliced cross wise in 1/2 inch pieces
1 tbsp. butter
1/4 c. heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

In a heavy skillet, fry bacon until crisp.  Drain bacon on paper towel and set aside.  Drain all but 1 Tbsp. bacon fat from pan.

Add butter to fat in skillet, add brussels sprout shreds.  Cook, stirring often 5-8 minutes, until they begin to soften but not until they are completely wilted.  Add cream and heat through.  Season with salt and pepper, top with bacon and serve.

October 16, 2013   Daylight 9 hours, 35 min. 27 sec.    Temp. H 46/ L 37° F

Monday, October 14, 2013

Roast Chicken with Mushrooms and Peas


When I was seven my mom moved us from the perfect place on earth, also known as California, to western Kansas.  I was used to ocean, mild weather, big neighborhoods, swimming pools...all those important things for a child.  We moved to a town of about 800  people, wind, a town with dirt roads (well, main street was paved), wind, 17 kids in my whole grade level, wind, and we moved in September so we were just getting ready for winter, and did I mention wind?

It was a very quiet town and so very different from the bay area I was used to.  My mom is an exceptionally creative person and a quiet town, with lots of time to think and plan, was either good for her creative juices or just plain trouble.

On Halloween that first year, I was sitting at my desk in my second grade class, struggling with a math problem.  The door burst open and two witches flew  into the room.  They were dressed in traditional witch black, pointed hats, long stringy hair and big noses, dragging their brooms they just flew in, screeching and cackling.  Holy shit! (or what ever 7 year olds think before they become as foul mouthed as I became).

They were throwing candy on everyone's desk, they swooped through the room, and were gone.  Now, I had seen the Wizard of Oz, and I knew there were witches in Kansas, so these must have been the witches that weren't in the movie!
Of course the rest of the day was shot for the poor teacher.  She let us go out for an extra recess after that, as did all the classes since the witches had visited all 6 classrooms of our school.  Everyone was excited and buzzing about the visit.  Those poor dumb country kids couldn't figure out who it was.  I knew, again, I had just watched the Wizard of Oz before we moved and I had it on good authority (my mom), that witches were in good health in Kansas.  My cousin thought she knew who the witches were and I asked her when she had met a witch before that she would know them.  She just rolled her eyes at me.

We eventually made our way back into the school, had our Halloween party and then went home.  My cousin and I walked through the front door and HOLY SHIT! there sat the witches...but the hats, wigs and noses were gone and it was MY MOM and my aunt.  They were having an afternoon cocktail and reliving the expressions on every teacher's face when they appeared in each room.  Cackling as they only they could.

I was in awe that my mom could pull this off.  Not only come up with such a costume in this small town, but to have thought of it and pulled it off without anyone knowing who it was.  The town talked about it for months and no one was the wiser.

I began to worry, I hoped those real witches didn't mind that my mom dressed up like them, I always kept my eyes out for them, just in case.
Roast Chicken with Mushrooms and Peas
adapted from Fine Cooking, November 2013

This chicken comes out of the oven with a crisp skin and juicy meat.  Make sure you are careful about getting the garlic off the chicken when you remove it from the brine, it will burn if you leave it on (see picture).  Marinating the chicken adds so much flavor, make sure you plan enough time for that step.

3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 3-4lb. chicken, cut up
salt and pepper
2 oz. unsalted butter
1 c. thinly sliced shallots
1 lb. mushrooms, sliced; I couldn't find chanterelles like the recipe called for, I used baby bellas -you                                             gotta love Fairbanks :(
1/2 c. dry white wine
1 c. heavy cream
1 c. frozen peas, thawed
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 450°F.

Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice and 2 tsp. of the garlic in a shallow bowl.  Add the chicken, turn to oat, and let sit at room temperature, turing occasionally, for 30 minutes.

Put the chicken skin side up on a rack set over a large rimmed baking sheet (reserve the marinade).  Season well with salt and pepper.  Roast for 10 minutes, lower the heat to 375°F, and roast until the skin is deep golden and the meat is cooked through (165°F) about 30 minutes more.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a 12 inch heavy-duty skillet over medium heat.  Add the reserved marinade and the shallots.  Cook, stirring, until tender and lightly browned, 3-4 minutes.

Add the sliced mushrooms and cook. stirring frequently, until tender and golden-brown on some sides, about 3 minutes.  Add the remaining garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the wind and simmer for 1 minute.  Remove from the heat.  Set aside 1/2 cup of the mushrooms and cover to keep warm.

Transfer the chicken to a plate, reserving the juice in the baking sheet and scraping up any browned bits.  Put the skillet with the mushroom mixture over medium-high heat and add the chicken drippings, cream, peas, 3/4 tsp. of salt, and 1/2 tsp. of pepper.  Cook until thickened to a sauce consistency, about 2 minutes.  Remove from the heat, add 2 tsp. of the tarragon, and season to taste.  Divide the sauce among four shallow bowls and top with the chicken, Sprinkle with the reserved mushrooms and the remaining tarragon, and serve.

October 14, 2013  Daylight  9 hrs. 48 min. 51 secs.   Temp. H 45/ L 36°F





Friday, October 11, 2013

Autumn Fruit Tart



Several weeks ago, I was complaining to my friend Traci that I had "attitude" and I was having a hard time turning that around.  I needed something to change, so I changed jobs.

"I really am a positive person.  I don't like feeling like this, but I just can't get myself turned around." I complained to her over dinner.

Well, Traci is smart (she doesn't have a corner office for no reason) and she gave me the most thoughtful, potentially life changing gift a person could think of.  She gave me A Year of Gratitude.  In this box is Thank You cards - one for each week of the year, a journal to write down who you sent the card to and your thoughts and some pointers on how to write a meaningful thank you card.  It helps you focus on the good, not ruminate on the negative (and boy do I need that).

So, every Sunday morning, as I drink my coffee, I will write one thank-you to someone.  I have all week to think about it, figure out who I will thank, and I will mail the card on Monday morning.  It will be hand written and sent through snail mail, a small surprise for someone who deserves it.  Sitting here thinking about it makes me realize that my list of people to thank is already so long one year might not do it.  This might be a life-long habit that Traci just started.  I am committed to live a life of gratitude, not attitude.  And I'm going to start with Traci.  I'm glad she smacked me in the attitude and got me back on the right track.

Thank you, friend.

Autumn Fruit Tart
adapted from Harvest Baking

Crust:
1 1/4 cups crushed vanilla wafer cookies
1/2 cup finely chopped hazelnuts
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

Filling
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
3 eggs
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbsp. brandy, or apple juice
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/4 cup chopped dried cranberries
1 medium apple, peeled, chopped (about 1 cup)

Topping
1/2 cup whipping cream, whipped
1 Tbsp. powdered sugar
1/8 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Combine all crust ingredients in small bowl; mix well.  Press onto bottom and up sides of greased 9" tart pan with removable bottom.  Bake 8 minutes.

Combine sugar, corn syrup, eggs, flour, 2 tablespoons of melted butter, brandy and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon in medium bow., mix well.  Stir in hazelnuts, apricots, cranberries, and apple.  Spoon mixture into crust.  Bake for 40-50 minutes or until deep golden brown.  Cook 15 minutes.  Remove side of pan.

Combine all topping ingredients in a small bow.  Beat at high speed until stiff peaks form.  Serve with tart.

October 9, 2013   Daylight 10 hrs. 22 mins. 15 sec.  Temp.  H 35/ L 27°F

Monday, October 7, 2013

Mac & Cheese with Bacon


I was sitting at my desk, early for work for a change.  Someone came into my office and needed help.  I realized I couldn't help her because I didn't work there anymore.  I had shown up to the wrong office (I did just change jobs).  So I jumped up to head across town to my new digs and I DIDN'T HAVE ANY PANTS ON.  I quickly ran to the closet in my office, grabbed pants and left for the correct office. Then I woke up with a start...

"What are you dreaming now?" Dave mumbled next to me in bed.
"How did you know I was dreaming?"  I asked.
"You sleep like a damn tornado."

He pulled the covers over his shoulders turned on his side and went back to sleep.  I got up.  There was no sleeping for me after that.  I'm not sure which worried me more, the fact that I showed up to the wrong office and had a better closet there than at home, or the fact I didn't have pants on and it didn't seem to bother anyone but me.  Dreams are weird, and if you analyze dreams, don't tell me what this is supposed to mean I really don't want to know.

Since I couldn't sleep, I figured I'd make something delicious to chase the dream away.  I needed comfort food.  And what better than loaded mac and cheese.  Nothing is more comforting that warm, silky cheese sauce covering pasta and topped with salty, crunchy bacon.  I ate two servings, I hope I have big girl pants in that closet in my office, I'm going to need them.

Loaded Mac-&Cheese
from Cook Like a Rock Star, Anne Burrell

Extra virgin olive oil
6 slices bacon, cut into 1/2 inch strips
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 onion, diced
kosher salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 quart whole milk, plus more if needed
1 lb. pasta shells
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
2 cups grated Fontina cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup dijon mustard
Tabasco, to taste

Drizzle a bit of olive oil in a large saucepan, add the bacon, and bring the pan to medium heat; stir the bacon occasionally.  When it's brown and crispy, 6-8 minutes, remove from the pan, drain on paper towels, and reserve.

Add the butter and onion to the pan with the bacon fat, season with salt, and cook until the onion is soft and aromatic, 8-10 minutes.  Add the flour and cook, stirring frequently, for 4-5 minutes or until the mixture looks like wet sand.  Slowly whisk in the milk, season with salt, bing to a boil and reduce to a simmer; cook over low heat for 8-10 minutes or until the mixture is slightly thicker than heavy cream.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for 1 minutes less than the instructions on the package suggest.  Taste the pasta, it should be toothsome with just a little nugget of hard pasta still in the center - this is al dente.  Drain the pasta and reserve.

Add the Cheddar, Fontina, and Parmesan to the milk mixture and whisk to combine.  Add the mustard and a few shakes of Tabasco; taste and adjust the seasoning if needed, adding a little more milk if the mixture seems too thick.  Stir in the cooked bacon and pasta.  The mixture should be very creamy and flavorful.  Transfer to a baking dish, or individual ramekins and heat in a 375°F oven until bubbly.
Makes 6-8 servings

October 7, 2013   Daylight 10 hrs. 35 mins. 36 secs.  Temp.  H 43/ L 34°F

Friday, October 4, 2013

Beer Bread or 3-2-1 Bread

 So I "retired" from my school district.  29 years of teaching, principaling (is that really a word?), training...and now off to other adventures.  It has been a really tough couple of weeks.  Each day brought a meeting with another group I work with, and at the end of the work, the goodbyes.  Not my favorite thing.  Finally, the last day, and after Miriam's cheesecake for breakfast (and morning snack and after lunch dessert-yes it is that good), cake and a room full of people to hug and say goodbye to, presents, turning in my keys, and Anita deleting me from my district iPad (I loved that damn iPad), the day was done.  And I was unemployed...for 15 hours.
A group of friends met me for dinner.  We had a nice meal, fun conversation and some champagne to celebrate the next chapter and more presents.  I held it together until the very end (I am not a pretty cryer).  One of my gifts was this memory book.  On every page were different pictures of groups I work with, parties we had, notes from people wishing me well, there was even a goal sheet from the mentors I work with (yes, next steps are finding the new coffee pot and bathroom!), and pockets and pockets of letters.  I sat with my coffee this morning weeping from the profound gratitude I feel for having the privilege  of working with these people, the sadness I won't get to see them everyday and the pure terror from the fact I don't know what I am getting myself into...

So what do you do when you catch yourself crying in your beer?  You bake with that beer instead!

This is the easiest bread you will ever make.  We call it, simply, beer bread or 3-2-1 bread.  It has a crunchy, biscuit like outside, and a tender inside.  It is perfect for that bowl of chili or next to steak and and salad.  I could eat this every day.

To start you melt one stick of butter in your bread pan.
Pour in the batter, and squish it down to get butter on the top.
And bake!  It is that easy.  Four ingredients and you have warm, toasty, buttery bread.  Yum.  Maybe I'll make a loaf and take it to my first day of work.

3-2-1 Bread

3 c. self rising flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 can of beer, or 11/4 cup yogurt or sour cream if you don't use beer at your house
1 stick of butter, (1/2 cup)

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Place stick of butter in bread pan, place in oven to melt.

Meanwhile, mix flour sugar and beer together.  When butter is melted, remove pan from oven and put batter in pan, squishing down so butter covers the batter.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until bread is a golden brown.  Let cook about 10 minutes in pan.  Turn bread out over a paper towel to catch any butter drips left in bottom of pan.  Cook about 15 minutes more, cut and serve.  Delicious!

October 4, 2013   Daylight 10 hrs. 55 min. 34 sec.  Temp. H 40/ L 30°F

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Cranberry Shortbread

It is frosty and cold in the mornings, the sky has been clear, then cloudy, then clear again, the birds are all gone and I have been berry picking.  Cranberry season is just about over and I have enough for some cranberry liqueur (recipe later) and these shortbread cookies.
Alaska cranberries are smaller and tarter than commercial cranberries.  They are perfect for these shortbread cookies.  You could use store bought cranberries, you would want to chop them up a bit though.  I have also used blueberries to top these shortbread bars, they are equally delicious.
Cranberries cleaned and ready for the freezer.

I love these bars on a cookie plate, especially at christmas.  The sweet, tender shortbread and the tart berries on top are always a favorite.
Cranberry Shortbread Bars
Bun on the Run Cookbook

1 c. butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 cup flour
pinch of salt
1 c. walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 c. fresh cranberries, chopped if commercial cranberries

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Butter a 9X13 inch pan.

Cream butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar thoroughly.  Add egg and vanilla, mixing well.  Add flour and salt, mixing until just combined.  Stir in walnuts.

Press dough into prepared pan.  Spread cranberries over top evenly, lightly pressing into dough.  Bake for 25-20 minutes until shortbread is lightly golden.  Cool and cut into bars.

October 2, 2013   Daylight 11 hrs. 8 min. 52 sec.   Temp. H 46/ L 30°F