Monday, December 30, 2013

Champagne Cocktail because he asked and she said yes.

You know when the phone rings at 5:15 am to prepare yourself for life changing news.  The phone rang, we answered and life is changing.

The curly haired boy FINALLY got smart and asked, and the chick must have been caught off guard because she said yes.  We are holding her to it and won't let her back out.  Looks like we get a summer wedding!

It is strange, the waves of emotion that roll over you; excitement and happiness for this new adventure in your child's life, relief that she said yes, concern that, while marriage is a wonderful thing, it can be hard, terror that you are old enough to have a child getting married, and a little nostalgic that your baby boy, with the ringlets and chubby cheeks, has grown into a man and is ready to start a family of his own.

Our first Halloween, 3 months.

We started our love of rock climbing with the piano.

Washing after dinner.

I love the curls.

Birthday with friends.

Boy Scouts, Order of the Arrow presentation.

How did this cute kid...
Turn into this?

Wrestling, 8th grade.

I hope she knows what she is getting into!

So, we are celebrating with a champagne cocktail.  A toast to a life of adventure, love, and happiness.

Champagne Cocktail

1 oz. cherry vodka
1/2 oz. Grand Mariner

Pour vodka and Grand Mariner into glass, top with champagne.  Garnish with orange peel or berries.

1 year ago:   Cranberry Orange Poached Cheesecake Pears
2 years ago: Chocolate Toffee Cookies

December 30, 2013   Daylight 3 hrs, 55 min, 23 sec.   Temp. H -5/ L -10°F

Friday, December 27, 2013

Reindeer Cookies

The reindeer were tired.  They have finished their long trip, eaten some extra grain and they are now getting some well deserved rest.

Santa's reindeer are awesome.  They fly all night, pulling that big sleigh full of toys and a fat man through the skies and never complain.  We honor them by making cookies that look like them, and then eating the peanut butter deliciousness.

Boy, they were good.

Reindeer Cookies

Nutterbutter cookies
Chocolate candy coating
Red M&Ms
Small pretzel twists
Candy eyes or white M&M's and edible black marker/frosting

Melt chocolate candy coating according to package directions.  Pull cookies slightly apart.  Dip in chocolate, place broken pretzels between cookies and secure with chocolate (I dipped the edge of the pretzel in the chocolate, pushed them between the cookies and let the chocolate from the pretzel and the cookie hold them in place.  Place a red M&M for the nose and the candy eyes in place before the chocolate hardens.  Let sit about 30 minutes to harden.  Enjoy

1 year ago:   Cranberry-Orange Cheesecake Pears
2 years ago:  Moose Short Ribs

December 27, 2013   Daylight 3 hrs. 47 min. 54 secs  Temp. H -18/ L -22°F

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

For unto us a child is born:

My grandmother made this nativity for me over 20 years ago.  It is a precious treasure. My wish for you this Christmas is for a restful day that reminds you of what you hold most dear, and the sacrifice given to us for our salvation.

Merry Christmas.
May your holiday be as restful as ours.

December 25, 2013   Daylight 3 hrs. 44 min. 27 sec.  Temp. H -3/ L -5°F

Monday, December 23, 2013

Cranberry Bliss Bars and the Cookie Bake-Off

I want to say I am not very competitive...really, I'm not.  I don't have to have the cleanest house (but I might have the messiest!), I don't have to be the thinnest, tallest, shortest, smartest, or funnest.  My friend, Suzanne is always entering cooking and baking competitions, and winning.  Me - not so much.  I have enough pressure with my work, I don't need anymore pressure, at least that is what I tell myself

So, when I found out our office does an annual cookie contest and cookie exchange, I thought it was an informal, laid back kind of thing.  Oh no,  these people are serious about this cookie contest.  Craig was the reigning king, and everyone was planning and plotting to knock him from his throne.
Craig waiting to see if he is crowed King again.

I made cranberry bliss bars.  My friend Donna makes them every year at Christmas time, and they are so delicious.  Suzanne posted about them a couple of weeks ago on her blog, Front Range Fork and Cork so they were on my mind, and I was craving them.  We also needed 5 dozen and these make 2 dozen per pan so I could make three pans and be done!
Three pans of cookies for the cookie exchange.

The day of the cookie exchange and contest came.  We all had to put 4 cookies on a plate, label with the name of the cookie and nothing else.  The judges had judging sheets they filled out, the scores were tallied on an Excel sheet, and the winner's crown and ribbon were waiting.  We milled around waiting anxiously...would Craig go home with the coveted title again?
Cookies in line ready to be judged.

Judges tallying their scores.

And the winner is...
No, Suze won with her delicious nut roll-ups.  I did come in a close second, but if you aren't the winner you are a loser.  So my cranberry bliss bars did not save the day for me.  I did not win the coveted cookie baker throne or the privilege of wearing the beautiful cookie crown.  And Suze didn't rub it in by wearing the crown ALL day...
Suze accepts her crown...

and ribbon..

And takes a bow.

So, even though these are not winners in my office, they will be winners at your house.  They are rich, delicious, and easy, my favorite combination.
Cookies wrapped for the cookie exchange.

Cranberry Bliss Bars

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar, packed
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup diced dried cranberries
6 ounces white chocolate, cut into chunks

4-ounces cream cheese, softened 3 cups powdered sugar
4 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup diced dried cranberries Drizzled Icing
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
2 teaspoons vegetable shortening

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Make cake by beating butter and brown sugar together with an electric mixer until smooth. Add eggs, vanilla, ginger, and salt and beat well. Gradually mix in flour until smooth. Mix 3/4 cup diced dried cranberries and white chocolate into the batter by hand. Pour batter into a well-greased 9x13" baking pan. Use a spatula to spread the batter evenly across the pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until cake is light brown on the edges. Allow cake to cool.

3. Make frosting by combining softened cream cheese, 3 cups powdered sugar, lemon juice and vanilla extract in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. When the cake has cooled, use a spatula to spread frosting over the top of the cake.

4. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of diced cranberries over the frosting on the cake.

5. Whisk together 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon milk, and shortening. Drizzle icing over the cranberries in a sweeping motion or use a pastry bag with a fine tip to drizzle frosting across the top of the cake.

Office Gifts: Layered Cheese Tort

1 year ago:   Greek Yogurt Labneh
2 years ago: Espresso Martini

December 23, 2013   Daylight 3 hrs. 42 min. 18 sec.  Temp.  H -3/ L -15°F

Friday, December 20, 2013

Homemade Ravioli and the New Pasta Machine

I've wanted a pasta machine for a while now.  I don't really know why, I don't eat much pasta.  But I did see a recipe for crackers that you roll out in your pasta machine and last month's Daring Bakers challenge was a pastry you roll out in the pasta machine and fold to make hundreds of flaky layers, I did not make those because I didn't have a pasta machine (I'm not going to mention those adventurous and ambitious bakers that made it without a pasta machine!).  But now I can go back and complete that challenge.

I received a gift card for my favorite cooking store when I retired from my school district.  It was a wonderful gift and I've been stopping at the store often, looking for the perfect thing to buy with it (we won't tell Dave about all the "little" things I bought that just weren't right for the gift card!)  I saw these pasta machines and knew it was the thing.  I brought it home, washed it off and it was ready for me to go.

So forgive me if the next couple weeks include a lot of recipes that use a pasta machine.  If you don't have one, I suggest you get one.  They are a lot of fun but they don't do much for the "no gain holiday challenge" I'm in.  I don't usually eat pasta, but you have to try what you make!

I thought I'd start with an easy ravioli.  A sheet of pasta, mounds of seasoned moose sausage, the pasta folded in half and then sealed, boiled for a couple of minutes and a quick sauce with my home canned tomatoes.  We were set!

Basic Pasta Sheets

5 whole eggs, room temperature
3 1/2 to 4 cups of flour, plus more for dusting

Place flour in bowl of mixer, make a well in the center (you can do this by hand).  Add eggs and mix until fully incorporated and kneed for about 5-8 minutes.  Take dough out of mixer, cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30-60 minutes.

Cut dough into 4ths.  Using 1/4 of the dough at a time, run it through the pasta machine at the widest level 3-4 times (for my machine that is 1).  Lightly dust with flour.  Then pass the pasta through the machine at the next smallest number (for mine that is 2), pass it through, lightly dust with flour, and go down again.  Repeat this until you have your pasta the desired thickness.  I stopped at 6 for the ravioli.

To make the ravioli

Lay down a sheet of pasta. Spacing down the pasta sheet, lay down your filling.  I used meatballs I baked and squished down to make them a little flatter.

I lightly pressed my cutter down the length of the pasta to mark the ravioli spaces
Lightly brush water around the edges of the pasta for each ravioli.  Fold the pasta sheet over the filling and, pressing out any air bubbles, seal the edges.  Using a cutter (cookie cutter or glass), cut the ravioli out of the pasta sheet, sealing tightly.  You can reroll the left over pasta dough with the next piece of dough.

Lay the pasta on a parchment lined baking sheet while you finish the other raviolis.

Bring a large pot of water to boil, generously salting the water.  Drop ravioli into the water and let boil for 3-5 minutes, until pasta is done.

Remove from the water and drain.  Top with your favorite sauce and grated Parmesan cheese.

I have a feeling we are going to be eating a lot of pasta from now on!

1 year ago:   White Chocolate Peppermint Popcorn
2 years ago:  Chocolate Crinkle Cookies and Christmas Traditions

December 20, 2013   Daylight 3 hrs, 41 min, 35 sec.  Temp H -1/ L -2

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Buckeyes and the early morning scare

I guess this is my week for early morning scares.  I get up early, as my niece would say "At the ass-crack of dawn,"  to go to workout and get it over with.  So at 5:00 am I get up, dress in the dark so Dave can sleep, brush my teeth, make the coffee, put a log in the wood stove, and head to Fit Body Bootcamp to work out.  I'm really half awake (and probably not safe to drive, good thing the roads are pretty empty).

So this morning I'm headed to bootcamp as usual and open the garage door to get in my car.  There, in the dark are two people, their heads silhouetted in the darkness against the door window.  It is amazing how much goes through your mind in a split second.  Before anyone could move I thought....

Shit, someone broke into the house, they are in the garage with the dogs and those damn dogs didn't even bark.  They bark at everything, even the neighbor, every day at 5:00, when he gets home in the afternoon.  I wonder if they know I'm in here, of course they do, I opened the door, they must be trying to take Dave's 4-wheeler, don't they know we pull the keys so they can't start it.  Dave must have forgot to lock the garage door.  I might as well turn the light on to confront them...

So I switched on the light....

and this is what I saw.

The Holy Family and the three wise men, set up on the 4-wheelers, ready to be placed outside in the stable.  They looked like they were headed out for a joy ride.  I had the drive to bootcamp to slow my heart down.

Now, I figure I burned extra calories from all the scares this week.  So I am making (and eating a lot of) one of my favorite Christmas treats.  Buckeyes.  Peanut butter and chocolate in a  little bite of heaven.  What could be better to enjoy the view of the nativity all set up for the holidays.

Merry Christmas.


1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
3-4 cups powdered sugar
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 Tbsp. Crisco
Roasted peanut halves

Combine peanut butter, vanilla and salt in a large bowl.  Beat with an electric mixer on low until blended.  Add 2 cups powdered sugar, beating until blended  Beat in additional powdered sugar until mixture, when shaped into a ball, will stay on a toothpick.  Shape into 1-inch balls.  Refrigerate.

Place chocolate chips and shortening in a microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave on medium for 30 seconds.  Stir.  Repeat until mixture is smooth.  Reheat as needed while coating peanut butter balls.

Insert toothpick in peanut butter ball.  Dip 3/4 of ball into chocolate, leaving the top uncovered.  Remove excess chocolate off bottom.  Place on was paper-lined tray.  Remove toothpick.  Smooth over holes or top with a peanut.  Refrigerate until firm.

Optional add ins: crushed pretzels, chocolate chips, chopped peanuts-or use crunchy peanut butter, chopped banana chips

1 year ago:   Russian Tea Cakes
2 years ago:  Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons

December 18, 2013   Daylight 3 hrs, 42 min, 49 sec.   Temp. H -13/ L -14

Monday, December 16, 2013

Deep Fried Halibut and a middle of the night power-outage

The weather in Fairbanks has been crazy!  Unusually warm weather, 20 above, and lots of wind.  The other night we had wind gusting up to 60 MPH, and after the rain and trees heavy with ice and snow, trees were falling and power outages were rampant.  I really don't know which is worse, 40 below or 20 above and rain.

Well, we had a small power outage at our house, it was about 1:30am and the electricity went out.  I heard the boiler go off mid-cycle and my clock went out.  No worries.  About 15 minutes later (I'm guessing here) I hear footsteps running up the stairs and a see the light of a flashlight.  Suddenly the flashlight is being shined in my eyes...I'm thinking we are being robbed in the middle of the night because the power went out...Nope, the BBoy came up to wake us up and tell us the power was, thanks?

"Mom, mom, the power is out." he announces with the flashlight directed right in my face.
"Um, ok honey, just go back to bed." I say squinting into the light.
"Don't we need to do anything?" he asked
"Nope, you could put another log on the fire and get the flashlight out of my face, but other than that, just go to bed.  It will be on by morning."

He heads back downstairs, I hear him load up the wood stove an head to bed.  I took a while to fall back asleep though, my heart was racing.

At 4:20 I'm suddenly awake, there is loud talking in the next room about basketball.  The electricity came back on and the tv came on too, Sports Center was blaring.  I laid there thinking my husband would get up and turn it off, he did not, so I got up turned off the tv, put a log in the wood stove, reset my clock, and went back to bed, only to have the electricity go off again.  Not 10 minutes later the electricity came back on, the tv came back on and my clock was blinking again.  Dave didn't move...I got up, turned off the tv, reset my clock, and crawled back under the covers.  I never really went back to sleep so I finally got up at 5:00, made coffee and warmed up by the wood stove.  It is no wonder I fell asleep at 7:15 that evening watching tv.

In spite of the fact that the BBoy can be a pain, we made deep fried halibut for him and the chick last week.  She had never made deep fried halibut, and she doesn't like fish, so while we all enjoyed it, she ate chicken.  Ah well, more for me!

Deep Fried Halibut

4 lbs. halibut or cod fillets, cut into 2 inch chunks
2 cups Krustee's fry and bake mix, or pancake mix (the kind you only mix water with)
1 tsp. chili powder
1 beer
panko bread crumbs, I usually use two boxes

Peanut oil and something to heat it in, like a dutch oven or we use our outside turkey fryer, oil heated to 350°F.

Dry fish chunks, I set fish on several layers of paper towel and press firmly with more paper towel.

Mix the Krustee's fry and bake, chili powder and the beer, making a batter a little thinner than pancake batter (you want it to stick to the fish but not be so thick you get a big gloppy piece of fish to fry and only eat batter).  Place panko in a large bowl.

Dip fish in batter, covering completely then roll in panko, pressing lightly to adhere completely.  Set aside on a rack over a baking sheet and let dry about 15 minutes.

Drop fish into heated oil, leaving room for the fish to move a little and not stick together.  You don't want to add too many pieces and have the oil temperature drop.  Cook for 7-12 minutes or until the fish is cooked through and the coating is a golden-toasty brown.  Drain on paper towel line baking sheets.  If you need to cook fish in batches, keep it warm in an oven set to 200°F while the rest cooks.

Serve with tarter sauce and seafood sauce.  Serves 8-10

1 year ago:   My New Nativity
2 years ago: Girls' Night Out at Bobby's Restaurant

December 16, 2013   Daylight 3 hrs, 45 min, 22 sec.   Temp. H-29/ L -33°F

Friday, December 13, 2013

Pound Cake with Grand Marnier-Poached Apricots and Plums

My mother and brother in-law spend the month of November in Hawaii.  It is kind of a nice break from the MIL, since she is such a kind person and all.  But, all good things come to an end and they returned last weekend.  We had family dinner reinstated at our house.  Funny how, even though she is a Grumpy Gus, we do miss her.

We fixed deep fried halibut and I made this pound cake for dessert.  The poached dried fruit was a delicious accompaniment. The recipe is from this month's Bon Appétit but only called for apricots.  Just so you know, don't put the apricots on the stove to simmer, decide it needs to come to a boil so you turn it ALL the way up, and then decide to vacuum for about 20 minutes.  The burnt sugar and scorched apricots do not smell nice.  Then, I didn't have enough dried apricots for my second batch, so I added dried plums to make up the difference.  I'm totally telling everyone I added the plums because I like them and the BBoy needs the extra fiber...

Pound Cake with Grand Marnier-Poached Apricots and Plums
Bon Appétit, Dec. 2013

2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
3 ups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. cream of tarter
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
2 cups superfine sugar
6 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Apricots and Plums
2/3 cup Grand Marnier
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup water
1 11/2" Piece peeled ginger, sliced
lightly sweetened whipped cream, for serving

Preheat oven to 325°F.  Butter and flour the pan.

Whisk salt, cream of tartar, cardamom, and 3 cups flour in a medium bowl.

Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat 2 cups butter until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Reduce speed to low and gradually add superfine sugar.  Increase speed to high and beat until very light and creamy, 6-8 minutes longer.  Add eggs 1 at a time, beating to blend between additions.  Beat in cream and vanilla.  Reduce speed to low; gradually add dry ingredients, mixing until mostly combined.  Finish mixing with a rubber spatula just until combined.  Scrape batter into prepared pan.

Bake cake, rotating halfway through, until top is golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 70-80 minutes.  Transfer pan to a wire rack; let cake cool completely before turning out.  Can be made three days in advance.

Apricots and Plums
Bring Grand Marnier, granulated sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar.  Add apricots and ginger, reduce heat to low, and simmer gently until apricots are very soft, 20-25 minutes.  Let cool.  Can be made up to 1 week in advance.

Remove ginger just before serving.  Serve cake with apricots and plums and syrup and whipped cream.

1 year ago:  Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 years ago:Pear-tini and the 12 Days of Christmas

December 13, 2013   Daylight 3hrs, 51 min, 34 sec.   Temp. H -13/ L -18°F