Monday, December 31, 2012

Cranberry Orange Cheesecake Pears

I can't believe this week has flown by.  I didn't mean to take the week off, but the curly haired boy and his chick were here, we had Christmas Eve open house and Christmas at our place, went to the hot springs, and took the chick dog sledding (pictures of the hot springs and dog sledding to follow this week).

The curly haired boy  photo bombing the pear!
Saturday was a busy day with dog sledding.  We came home tired and hungry.  I made this pulled pork for sandwiches, we played some cards and had these poached pears for dessert.  This is going to be a new favorite dessert (I know, and no chocolate, what is with that?)

The funny thing about the pears is that I received a box of pears from Harry and David, with a notice of the fruit of the month club.  The problem was there was no name attached to the from part of the box.
So either someone is going to be upset that I never sent them a thank you card, or I accidentally ordered them myself when I ordered the Christmas gift for my grandma!  I'll have to check my credit card to find out.
In the mean time, we have this lovely box of pears we are enjoying.  These poached pears are delicious, a light dessert for a cold evening.  I just noticed the date on this recipe.  I can't believe I waited four years to try it.  Don't you wait that long.

Cranberry-Orange Cheesecake Pears
adapted from Clean Eating, Fall 2008

Poached Pears
4 pears, Bosc are good for this, I used Royal Riviera
2 cinnamon sticks
2 cups cranberry juice
2 cups orange juice
1 vanilla bean, split length-wise

Cheesecake Stuffing
8 oz. light cream cheese, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. dired ground ginger
1/2 cup dried unsweetened cranberries or cherries
1/2 cup unsalted, sliced almonds, toasted


Peel and half pears.  Using a small spoon or a melon baller, scoop out and discard cores.  Place pears in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan.  Add cinnamon sticks and juices.  Scrape out seeds from vanilla bean and stir in, add scraped bean to pan.

Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer, turing pears occasionally.  Poach for 20-25 minutes or until pears are tender.  Remove pears from pan and set aside to cool.  Boil juice until reduced to about 1/2 cup, stirring often.  Remove vanilla bean and cinnamon sticks.

In a bowl, stir cream cheese with vanilla extract and ginger until smooth, fold in cherries and nuts.

To serve, evenly divide cream cheese mixture between pear halves.  Spoon reduced juice syrup over pears and cream cheese, serve.

Makes 8 servings
This is the curly haired boy and his chick the first night they came home.
December 31, 2012   Daylight 3 hours, 59 minutes, 12 seconds    Temp. H 13/L 8 °F

Friday, December 21, 2012

Greek Yogurt Labneh

With the Curly Haired boy and his Chick coming, I'm taking some time off work.  I'll be home to enjoy the full visit.  That also means I am free to schedule and plan their every waking moment.  Dave is so relieved that he has to go to work, I think I'm driving him a little crazy!

Well, I do have all our breakfasts planned, most of the lunches and dinners too.  I'm not going for my regular protein shake breakfast or plain chicken breast lunch.  I plan on adding about 10 lbs. to my short frame in the next two weeks (well, maybe only 5).  The other thing I'm planning is our afternoon snacks.  I usually eat some veggies and hummus around 4:00 but I'm going to shake it up a bit for the kids.

This is yogurt cheese marinated in herbs, lemon zest and olive oil.  It has protein, lots of flavor and it is easy to make and keep in the fridge.  Don't use fat free Greek yogurt for this recipe, use full fat or 2%(which is what I used).  I made it, tested it (YUM) and it is in the fridge now, waiting for our first afternoon snack with the Curly haired boy and his Chick.
Greek Yogurt Labneh
Bon Appetit Dec. 2012

  • 2 cups plain 2% fat or whole Fage Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup (or more) good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons finely minced fresh herbs (such as tarragon, parsley, and chives)
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Special Equipment
  • Cheesecloth
  • Line a large sieve with cheese-cloth; set over a medium deep bowl. Place yogurt in sieve. Gather edges of cheesecloth to cover yogurt. Place in refrigerator and let drain for 2-3 days.
  • Gently squeeze out any excess liquid; discard liquid in bowl (yogurt will be very thick and resemble soft goat cheese). Roll yogurt into 3/4 inches balls. Place in an 8-ounces glass jar.
  • Whisk oil, herbs, and lemon zest in a small bowl to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over yogurt in jar. Cover; place in refrigerator and let marinate for at least 8 hours and up to 2 weeks.
    Taste testing is hard work.
     December 21, 2012  Daylight 3 hours, 41 minutes, 29 seconds Temp. H -26/L -44 F

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

White Chocolate and Peppermint Popcorn

If you have been on Pinterest lately, and who hasn't, you will see all kinds of popcorn covered with everything from caramel to cayenne.  One day I saw a beautiful picture of white chocolate and crushed peppermint popcorn.

"Hmmm, that looks pretty, and interesting."  I said to myself.  "I'll have to try that."

But did I pin it? NO, of course I didn't, that would have been too easy. So, who ever pinned this, I'm sorry I'm not referencing you, when I looked back of course I couldn't find it again, even though it had been repinned about 9476 times (it looked that good).

So, on my snow day, I improvised.  One of the boys from across the street came over, we popped some corn in the air popper, melted a hunk of white chocolate, crushed some candy canes and put this together.  It was heaven.  Sweet, minty, crunchy, light, this was a wonderful snack.  And we couldn't stop eating it.  So much so, that I had to make another batch so I could take some to work the next day...yes, I ate the whole thing, and I'm seeking counseling for my over-eating habit...right after the holidays.

White Chocolate and Peppermint Popcorn.
with apologies to who ever pinned this first, and to you because I didn't measure anything

A big batch of popcorn - I popped 2/3 cup of popcorn kernels in my air-popper
about 6 oz. white chocolate
about 1 cup crushed candycanes - I crushed them in my food processor until it was mostly dust

Place popcorn on large cookie sheets with sides, I used two jelly roll pans.  Pick out any unpopped kernels.  Keep warm in oven heated to 200ºF.

Crush candy canes with a hammer, sturdy rolling pin, or in your food processor.  You want it mostly dust with a few small bits.

Melt white chocolate using your favorite method, I use the microwave method, stirring after every 15 seconds so it doesn't scorch.

Take popcorn out of oven, Drizzle white chocolate over popcorn, sprinkle with crushed candy canes.  Mix, drizzle again, sprinkle again until all the chocolate and candy canes are used up and popcorn is coated.  Let cool.  Break into pieces.
I think this would last about 3-5 days in an airtight container, but I really don't know because I ate it all.
Enjoy responsibly.

December 19, 2012   Daylight 3 hours, 41 minutes, 51 seconds   Temp. H -25/ L -40 ºF

Monday, December 17, 2012

Russian Tea Cakes (Snowballs)

Snow Day!

That term bring joy to the hearts of all children, and something our children in Fairbanks have never heard, until today.  Now, don't get me wrong we have had to close school before.  In the last 30 years we closed once because it was colder than 60 below so many days in a row the ice fog was too thick and it was unsafe for students to stand at the bus stop (not because of the cold, but because they couldn't be seen through the ice fog).  Two other times we had a weird Chinook (warm wind) and it rained once in November and once in February.  The problem with that is the rain freezes as soon as it hits ground and there is a sheet of ice, inches thick, and no one can drive until the graders can rough up the ice and lay down tons of gravel.  Ice melt doesn't work here, it is too cold.  But today was a true snow day.  We got up to 18 inches in the hills, about 6 inches in town overnight, and the snow plows just couldn't keep up. 

Since I retired, I have become "non-essential personnel" so when school closes, I don't have to go in to my office.  I can check my email and do some computer work at home, but other than that, I get a day at home!  I love it.

I made palmers, peppermint white chocolate popcorn (recipe to follow),  white chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies, and these Russian Tea Cakes from the Brown Eyed Baker.  I love these cookies, probably in my top 5 cookies and the ones I'm always looking for at Christmas.  Brown Eyed Baker called them Snowballs and I thought that was very appropriate for a snow day.

Russian Tea Cakes

Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
2 cups finely chopped pecans, divided
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
⅓ cup granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1½ cups powdered sugar, for rolling cookies after baking

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and adjust the oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
2. Mix 1.5 cups of the flour, 1 cup of the chopped pecans, and the salt in a medium bowl; set aside.
3. Place the remaining chopped nuts and 1/2 cup flour in a food processor and process until they are the texture of coarse cornmeal, 10 to 15 seconds; stir into the flour mixture and set aside.
4. Cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla, then scrape the sides of the bowl. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until the dough just begins to come together but still looks scrappy, about 15 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl again and continue beating at low speed until the dough is cohesive, about 10 more seconds.
5. Roll a heaping tablespoon of dough between the palms of your hands and place on the prepared baking sheets. The cookies will only spread a little bit, so you can place them fairly close together. Bake until the tops are pale golden and the bottoms are just beginning to brown, 17 to 19 minutes, rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time.
6. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer them to a wire cooling rack and allow to cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
7. Place the powdered sugar in a large zip-top bag. Working with 3 or 4 cookies at a time, place them in the bag of sugar and gently toss to coat them thoroughly. Gently shake off any excess. Allow the cookies to sit for at least an hour, or up to overnight, and then repeat the process. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

December 17, 2012   Daylight 3 hours, 43 minutes, 35 seconds   Temp. H -21/L -45 ºF

Friday, December 14, 2012

My new Nativity

11 years ago when we first moved into our house, I told Dave I wanted a nativity as part of our Christmas decorations.  We looked everywhere, no luck.  So we went online and looked, turns out shipping was twice the cost of the items.  I decided we didn't need a nativity.

Little did I know, Dave continued the search.  Every year he checked Craig's List, the second hand stores, and the box stores.  This year he scored!  He found a six piece nativity that had the holy family and three wise men.  He had to do a little electrical work on the wise men so they would light up, but other than that, they are perfect.
Starting the manger in the garage

He called me down to the extra room to "help him" one evening.  I was a little put out since I was watching the football game, but I went.  There they sat, waiting patiently to be moved to the yard.  I couldn't believe it. (Yes,  cried, I'm a big baby that way)
Dave "fluffing" the straw.

Dave went to work on the manger.  He built one out of 2X4's and pallets.  He re-wired a star set to get one star to hang over the manger, and he put it all together in the front yard.  Now, I know Joseph and Mary never saw a lick of snow on that first Christmas day, but to me, this snowy scene is perfect.

How ever you celebrate this holiday season, I wish you peace, rest, prosperity, and joy.
December 14, 2012   Daylight 3 hours, 48 minutes, 38 seconds   Temp H -38/L-44 F

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

When I was little, my Grandma Stejer would mail us a package of cookies every Christmas.   Getting a box of homemade cookies in the mail was such a treat.  We savored each cookie, rationing them out to last as long as possible.  When I had my boys, she continued to mail cookies to them. Each boy would choose the two cookies he wanted that evening to eat with their hot chocolate.  It is a tradition I miss, getting the box of unknown cookies, selecting the cookies for the evening, and enjoying them with a hot cup of tea or hot chocolate.
Reindeer on the rooftop, created by the blond boy when he was little.

I found a way to replicate that excitement of cookies coming in the mail, The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.  You make cookies for three others and you get cookies from three people.  They are fun to get in the mail, a new taste to try, and getting to know a new blog. Here is the info, from the horse's mouth, so to speak:

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap brings together food bloggers from around the world in celebration of all things scrumptious. The premise is this: sign up. Receive the addresses of three other food bloggers. Send each of them one dozen delicious homemade cookies. Receive three different boxes of scrumptious cookies from other bloggers. Eat them all yourself (or, you know, share. If you want. No judgement either way.) Post your cookie recipe on your blog. See everyone else’s cookie recipes. Salivate. Get lots of great ideas for next year's cookie swap. Rinse and repeat.
This year we are even more excited to be partnering with Cookies for Kids' Cancer, a national non-profit organization committed to funding new therapies used in the fight against pediatric cancer, which claims the lives of more children in the US than any other disease. By participating in this cookie swap you are not only contributing to the food blogger community, but also supporting a great cause.
I chose these cookies for the Great Cookie Exchange this year.  They travel well, and they freeze well also, important for anything that is leaving Alaska.  I'll send these cookies to my three cookie exchange matches and to the blond boy.

I've been making these cookies for over 20 years.  I got the recipe from a friend who watched the boys when they were babies.  This is the one cookie the boys always ask for when I'm sending a box or when they are coming home (Did you know Zach and Mason are coming home for Christmas?)

Since the boys are coming home this year, I have lots of these to make.  They are a soft, cake-like cookie full of pumpkin goodness, spices and chocolate chips.  This makes a big batch, but don't worry, they will all be gone in a flash.

I had fun baking, packaging, and having my husband mail my three boxes, and I loved getting my cookies in the mail.
Cookies packed up and ready to get mailed.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
from my friend Kathy

4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups backed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 15 oz. can pure pumpkin puree
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Cream butter with sugars, add egg, vanilla, and pumpkin.

Mix dry ingredients together, add to pumpkin mixture,  mix well.  Add chocolate chips.

Lightly grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.  Scoop tablespoons full, leaving 2" between cookies.  Bake 12-15 minutes until golden brown.

Makes about 8 doz. cookies
My first box of cookies from The Corner Kitchen
Snickerdoodles with white chocolate chunks.  Delicious!

December 12, 2012     Daylight 3 hours, 53 minutes, 31 seconds     Temp. H 19 /L 0 ºF

Monday, December 10, 2012


Fruitcake is a love it or hate it item.  My mother loves fruitcake.  She likes the little green things people call "candied fruit," she loves the dense cake, and she loves the rum-soaked aspect of it all.  I am not a fan.

I found this recipe for fruitcake in December's Cooking Light. It uses only real apples and pears and some dried fruit, I chose apricots, cherries, and dates, fresh ginger, and orange zest.  The cake has a lighter texture than traditional fruitcakes and it has a bit of apple brandy glaze instead of the soak in rum syrup.  I loved it.
6 mini fruitcakes, hot from the oven.

Instead of one big cake, I made 6 smaller cakes for giving. If you make one big, you need to adjust the cooking time.


1/2 cup dried tart cherries

  • 1/2 cup chopped pitted dates
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 3/4 cup Calvados (apple brandy), divided
  • 5.6 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 4.75 ounces whole-wheat flour (about 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 5 tablespoons butter, divided 
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar 
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar, divided 
  • large eggs 
  • large egg white 
  • 1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind 
  • 2/3 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup chopped peeled Pink Lady apple 
  • 1/2 cup chopped peeled pear 
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted 
  • Baking spray with flour (such as Baker's Joy)
  1. 1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. 2. Combine first 3 ingredients and 1/2 cup brandy in a medium glass bowl. Microwave at HIGH 2 minutes, stirring after 1 minute. Set aside.
  3. 3. Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours and next 6 ingredients (through allspice) in a bowl; stir well.
  4. 4. Place 4 tablespoons butter, oil, granulated sugar, and 1/2 cup brown sugar in a bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until blended. Add eggs and egg white, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add ginger and orange rind; beat 30 seconds. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Fold in cherry mixture, apple, pear, and pecans.
  5. 5. Spoon batter into small 6 count Bundt pan coated with baking spray; smooth top with a spatula. Bake at 350° for 55 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 20 minutes on a wire rack. Remove from pan; cool completely.
  6. 6. Combine remaining 1/4 cup brandy, remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar, and remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a small saucepan over medium heat; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes or until reduced to 1/4 cup, stirring well. Drizzle over cake.

Lighter Fruitcake

Mini fruitcakes topped with pecans and dried cherries.

December 10, 2012   Daylight 3 hours, 59 minutes, 32 seconds   Temp. H-2/L -8 ºF

Friday, December 7, 2012

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Lemon and Oregano

December is truly a month of excess, at least at my house.  I give myself to eat lots of cookies, chocolate, drink champagne...wait that is every month!  But I really do go overboard in December.  I call it The Season of Eating.

Every once in a while, during The Season of Eating, I want something a little lighter in calories, but big in taste.  This dish fits the bill.  It is so delicious, savory, bright with the lemon, and satisfying that you would never know it is lighter in calories.  It was so good, even the chicken hater in our house loved it, ate it, and asked for it again!  That is a win.

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Lemon and Oregano
Bon Appetit, December 2012

  • 1 lemon
  • 4 large or 8 small skin-on, chicken thighs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 3 sprigs oregano
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1/2 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth


  • Preheat oven to 425°. Very thinly slice half of lemon; discard any seeds. Cut remaining lemon half into 2 wedges. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper.
  • Coat a large room-temperature skillet with 1 teaspoon oil. Add chicken, skin side down. Place skillet over medium heat and cook, letting skin render and brown, and pouring off excess fat to maintain a thin coating in pan, until chicken is cooked halfway through, about 10 minutes.
  • Scatter half of lemon slices over chicken and half on bottom of skillet (the slices on top of the chicken will soften; those in the skillet will caramelize). Transfer skillet to oven, leaving chicken skin side down. Roast until chicken is cooked through, skin is crisp, and lemon slices on bottom of skillet are caramelized, 16-18 minutes.
  • Transfer chicken pieces, skin side up, and caramelized lemon slices from bottom of skillet to a warm platter. (Leave softened lemon slices in the skillet.) Return skillet to medium heat. Add oregano sprigs, shallot, garlic, and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  • Remove skillet from heat. Add wine; cook over medium heat until reduced by half, 1-2 minutes. Add broth; cook until thickened, about 3 minutes. Squeeze 1 lemon wedge over and season sauce with salt, pepper, and juice from remaining lemon wedge, if desired. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons oil. Return chicken to skillet, skin side up, to rewarm. Serve topped with caramelized lemon slices.

December 7, 2012    Daylight 4 hours, 10 minutes, 29 seconds    Temp. H-17/L -33 ºF

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Coquito - Drink of the Week

Last holiday season my friend, Jim, gave me this recipe.  It is the Puerto Rican version of eggnog.  For the last 10 years in Spanish Harlem, in New York City, there is a contest to see who makes the best version of Coquito and everyone has their own version.

So I decided to start a new tradition for our house, Coquito as the drink of the holiday season.  This is delicious!  It is creamy with the cream of coconut, has a kick with the rum and still has the familiar flavor of eggnog with the nutmeg and the egg yolks.  The curly haired boy will love this.

Be sure to have friends coming over when you make this.  It makes a big batch and you will be tempted to drink it all yourself!

Basic Coquito Recipe
from Elaine Heinzman of Weekend Edition

1 cup white rum
1 can cream of coconut (use a latin brand such as Coco Lopez or Goya - you want cream of coconut that's sweetened with sugar or corn syrup)
2-3 egg yolks
2 cans evaporated milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. nutmeg

Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend thoroughly (until egg yolks and nutmeg are evenly distributed).  Pour into a glass bottle or pitcher, and chill overnight in the refrigerator.  Strain the mixture trough a medium mesh strainer.  Return the strained coquito to the glass container and refrigerate.

It is best to drink it within 3 days of preparing - if it lasts that long.

December 5, 2012   Daylight  4 hours, 18 minutes, 55 sec.   Temp H-24 /L -33 ºF

Monday, December 3, 2012

Cranberry and Pistachio Shortbread Cookies

Ah, December, the month of frantic shopping, Christmas carols, and cookies.  I am really loving this year because: 1) I am finished with my shopping, 2) the boys are coming home soon, 3) cookies abound and you have to eat at least one of every kind that is offered to you (it would be rude if you didn't), 4) the boys are coming home soon, and 5) neighbors have Christmas lights up and on in the mornings and evenings, so pretty.

Every year I have the "cookie a day" recipe emailed to me with the thought I'd make a batch of cookies a day.  I never get to it.  The week is busy, I get tired, the butter sits on the counter never to be creamed into the sugar...well, not never but not every night.  So this year I've stopped printing every cookie recipe and I'm just happy to look and then delete.  I'll make my share of cookies, just I've given myself permission to enjoy the picture, read the recipe and move on.  But today, I'll bake.

I'm home today, it is -35ºF according to Yahoo weather on my phone, the fire is going, and the oven will warm up the kitchen, so cookies it is.  I'm starting with a simple cookie.  A cranberry pistachio slice and bake cookie.  It looks festive with the bits of red cranberries and the green pistachio bits.  It is an easy shortbread type cookie, the rolls store in the freezer nicely, and they are perfect with hot chocolate or mulled wine.

I'll bake a batch today and have three rolls in the freezer for later this month.  Each roll makes about 12 slice and bake cookies.  Perfect!

Cranberry Coins
adapted from Martha Stewart Holiday Cookies, 2010 

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped pistachios

Beat butter, confectioners' sugar, and vanilla with a wooden spoon until smooth.  Add flour and salt; stir until combined.  Stir in died cranberries and pistachios.  Divide dough into quarters.

On parchment, shape each portion into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and 4 inches long.  Wrap logs tightly in parchment or plastic.  Chill 30 minutes or up to 1 day (dough can be frozen up to 1 month).

Preheat oven to 325ºF.  With a sharp knife, slice dough into 1/4 inch thick rounds.  Rotate log as you cut to keep it from flattening.  Place rounds on parchment-lined baking sheets, 1 inch apart.

Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges just begin to turn golden, 20-22 minutes.  Let cookies cool on sheets on wire racks.  Cookies can be stored, in an airtight container, at room temperature up to 2 weeks.
The baby boy made this in 1996.  I put it out every Christmas.

December 3, 2012   Daylight 4 hours, 28 minutes, 8 seconds   Temp. H -24/L-33 ºF

Friday, November 30, 2012

Cold Medicine and Broiled Cinnamon-Sugar Toast

I was sick, I was sick bad.  Something was going around town and everyone had it.  Dave went to the store to get me some cold medicine.  The problem was that everyone in Fairbanks was sick and the stores were sold out of cold meds.  He went to three different stores and at the third store the only thing he found was the store brand of cold medicine that was sugar free.  He grabbed it and brought it home.

There I lay on the sofa, sniffling and aching in every joint.  He sweetly poured the cold medicine into the measuring cap and handed it to me.  I tipped my head back and swallowed the whole thing.  Now, no one in their right mind expects cold medicine to taste good, but this was like swallowing poison, and that is exactly what I told him.

"Are you trying to kill me?" I spat.
"What are you talking bout?" he innocently asked.
"That medicine, what is it?  It burned all the way down and I can't even begin to describe how awful it is."
"Oh, you're exaggerating." He scoffed.

Well, I didn't take another dose, I managed to get well on my own...and the next week guess who was sick on the sofa?  Yes, Dave.  I sweetly poured him a dose of the cold medicine and handed it to him.
"Bottoms up!" I sweetly cooed.
"Holy Sh**" he yelled. "What are you trying to do, poison me?"

Yep, we threw the rest away.  So now, around the first of October, I stock up on supplies to get us through the cold and flu season just so we aren't in that same position.  And I make broiled cinnamon-sugar toast.

This isn't really a recipe.  Everyone knows how to make sugar toast, but when you put it under the broiler, things change.  The sugar caramelizes, the cinnamon toasts, the butter melts into the is heaven.  I never made sugar toast this way, my husband first made it for me.  I would just butter a piece of toast and throw the cinnamon-sugar on it.

"You eat it raw?" he exclaimed the first time I made it for him.  "Here, let me show you how it is really done."

And, boy, was he right.  My husband has very good taste, he did marry me after all!

Broiled Cinnamon-Sugar Toast

2 pieces toast
cinnamon-sugar mixture

Toast bread, spread with butter, cover generously with cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Place under broiler until cinnamon-sugar melts and begins to bubble, being careful not to burn.

I guarantee this toast will make you feel better, no matter what you are suffering from.

November 30, 2012   Daylight  4 hours, 43 minutes, 13 seconds   Temp. H -22/L -33 ºF

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Warm Salad of Savoy Cabbage, Bacon, Blue Cheese, and Apples

Mmmm, blue cheese and  bacon.  How can you go wrong?

It is cold here.  Today I woke up to -28°F, and the high is supposed to be around -13°F.  There is really something wrong when the high is still below zero.

Dinners need to be warm, filling, and not too full of calories.  We did just have a week of eating with the blond boy and the DIL, and, we have two more weeks of eating coming up with the curly haired boy and the baby boy and the chicks.  This is a great addition to dinner.

Everything is better with the Bs; bacon, blue cheese, and butter, and we have two of those in this one healthy dish.  The key is to keep the bacon and the blue cheese in amounts that add flavor but not too many calories.

I love my cast iron pan.

So I whip this up and add it to a moose steak and we've got dinner.  I could eat just this for dinner, but Dave needs meat and we have a freezer full, again, easy!

Would someone please teach me how to adjust my white balance?
I love this for dinner and make if often when I want to feel full and satisfied, but don't need the extra calories.  The bit of bacon and the blue cheese really make this taste like an indulgence.

Warm Salad of Savoy Cabbage, Bacon, and Blue Cheese

2 sliced bacon, chopped
1 med. savoy cabbage, chopped, about 6 cups
1 med. sweet onion, sliced
1 granny smith apple, peeled and sliced thinly
2 oz. blue cheese, crumbled

Fry bacon over medium heat until cooked completely.  Remove from pan to a paper towel lined plate.  Remove all the bacon fat except for 1 Tbsp.  Add onions, cook for 2 minutes, add cabbage, cook for about 4 minutes more, or until cabbage begins to wilt.  Add sliced apple and cook about 2 more minutes.  Top with blue cheese crumbles and bacon.  Serve warm.

November 28, 2012   Daylight 4 hours, 53 minutes, 59 seconds   Temp: H -13/ L -28 °F

Monday, November 26, 2012

Baked Eggs in Potatoes

The day after Thanksgiving I stay home.  You can stand in line at 3:00 a.m. to buy socks 1/2 off, I'll be cozy in my bed.  I am an early riser though, and about 5:30-6:00 (if I can sleep in), I'll get up and put a batch of sticky buns in the oven.  Anyone can stop by for coffee and a caramel roll (or sticky bun) when they need a break, an opportunity to refuel and head back out for more "sales"(or combat shopping).

This year I also made baked eggs and potatoes.  My beautiful niece and her husband came over and we had a lovely brunch.  Michelle and the boys from across the street joined us for a nice visit.  Michelle went home for a nap (she is a combat shopper) and Nichole and Dain left for some shopping and a movie.

I saw this on Pinterest, I would like to cite the blog, but when I decided to make it, of course, I couldn't find it again and I hadn't put it on my board like I thought I had.  So, whoever pinned it, it is brilliant! If you find it on Pinterest, read their directions, I'm sure they are more efficient than mine (and let me know so I can give credit where it is due). I baked the potatoes the day before, scooped them out and they were ready to go in the morning.
The blond boy and the DIL the day after Thanksgiving.
I'll be making these when the curly haired boy and his chick comes home for Christmas, and probably for New Year's Day breakfast when the baby boy and his chick come home.  You can change it up by what you add to the potato skin with the egg, a little creamed spinach, cheese, bacon (everything's better with bacon), salsa...
I like one whole egg and one egg white and my yolks hard.

Baked Potatoes and Eggs

4 medium russet potatoes, scrubbed well
salt and pepper
sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (I didn't measure here, just use as much as you want), divided
4-8 eggs
4 Tbsp. heavy cream

Preheat oven to 450ºF.  Wash potatoes and poke with a fork to release steam, bake  45-60 minutes until cooked through.  (No, I do not wrap them in foil or oil the skin, you can do it if you want) Remove from oven and let cool.

When cool enough to handle, cut of top third and scoop out insides, save for another use.  Salt and pepper the interiors of the potato skins. This can be done the night before to save you time. Place potato skins in a 8x8 pan. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Reduce oven temp. to 350ºF

Line the inside of the potato skin with shredded cheddar cheese and/or any other filling you like.  Top with one or two eggs, depending on who you are serving and how big the potato skin is.  Top with 1 tbsp. heavy cream.  Bake for 15-30 minutes, depending on how you like your yolk.  During the last 5 minutes, top with cheddar cheese and return to oven to melt.

Serves 4

November 26, 2012   Daylight 5 hours, 5 minutes, 14 sec.   Temp. H -6/L -8 ºF

UPDATE:  I found the blog!  Of course it was months after I first posted this.  If you want to see the original recipe you can find it here at Our Best Bites.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Ranch Pretzels

My friend, Heather, had this great idea to invite the workout friends to her house before the holidays and share some healthy recipes.  It was a fun evening of friends, food, and laughter and we all got a tour of Heather's beautiful new house.  We had some delicious chili with pumpkin, roasted green beans, Paleo meatballs with a bit of a kick, no fat added chocolate-peanut butter no bake cookies, and these ranch seasoned pretzels.

With the kids coming over the holidays, I've been looking for some snacks to make and have around while we visit, play games and watch football.  These are addictive.  They will make good additions to goodie bags, and I think these will be what I take for November's Girl's Night.

The original recipe called for 1 cup olive oil, I cut that to 1/2 cup and it seemed to be plenty.  Be sure to mix the pretzels well before laying them on the pans, you want them all coated.  They are simple as can be, delicious warm from the oven, or cooled, and they store well.  My first batch was made with gluten free pretzels for the DIL, and everyone ate them.  No one knew they were GF.

Ranch Pretzels
adapted from Sonia's recipe

1 lb. bag of pretzels, I used gluten free for the DIL
1/2 cup olive oil
1 pkg. Ranch dressing & seasoning mix
2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 200ºF.  Pour pretzels into a large mixing bowl.  In a measuring cup mix together the rest of the ingredients an pour over top of the pretzels.  Mix well to cover all the pretzels with the oil/seasoning mixture.  Place pretzels in a single layer on cookie sheets and bake for 2 hours.  After 1 hour, mix pretzels to ensure they are coated evenly.  After the 2 hour mark, remove from oven and let cool.  Store in covered container, if they last that long!

These are so good, everyone kept snitching them from the plate while I tried to take pictures!
November 23, 2012   Daylight 5 hours, 22 minutes, 52 seconds   Temp: H -8 /L -13  ºF

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Barbeque Ribs and a Big Surprise

The plan was simple, Joe would tell his dad he was coming over for breakfast and to watch football.  Joe would pick up the blond boy and the DIL from the airport at 1:30 a.m., bring them to our house in the next morning, and Dave would be surprised.  It was a good plan, and then Dave got in the way.

I have been planning with the blond boy and the DIL since July to bring them home over the holidays.  Because of work schedules, they couldn't come home over Christmas, but they could over Thanksgiving.  We set the plan in motion and I worked very hard not to give it away.

The arrival morning finally arrived.  The blond boy and I were texting each other, Dave had come downstairs to build a fire and was dozing on the sofa.  It was a quiet, lazy morning.  But then it was getting close to the time the kids would walk in.  I wanted Dave awake so I started with, "Can I get you some coffee?" I think I asked that about 19 times, hoping he would sit up and start to wake up.  That didn't work.

Then I tried, "The fire needs more wood." nothing, then "which packages are the moose breakfast sausage and which are the Italian sausage?" (I wanted sausage for the kids for breakfast, he had pulled out ham the night before).  He told me which was which when I told him we were going to have spaghetti for dinner, and I went out and grabbed the breakfast sausage for the kids and plopped it in a bowl of warm water in the sink to start to thaw.  After I unloaded the dishwasher REALLY LOUDLY, he finally got up to get a cup of coffee.  I was in the other room texting the blond boy.

"Toni, you got the wrong sausage, this is breakfast sausage." he grumbled.
"Oh, O.K., I'll switch it out." I replied, hurrying to the kitchen and hiding my phone.
"I've got it." he said half way to the freezer in the garage.

And then he wasn't coming back.

The blond boy and the DIL were parked at the side of the house in my brother-in-law's truck.  Dave saw the truck through the window and wondered why it was there. (My brother-in-law is in Hawaii right now)  He walked outside to see who was in the truck so the kids jumped out and said, "Surprise, Merry Christmas!"

  His actual response was, "What are you doing here?"  He wasn't quite awake yet.  We had to explain to him, several times, we were surprising him for the holiday and this was his Christmas present.  About 1 1/2 hours later and several cups of coffee, he was finally awake enough to fully appreciate what was going on. Not the tearful reunion we had been hoping for.

So after months of planning, hiding, lying, and plotting, we did surprise him.  Feel very sorry for all the people who have to work with me ( and I do apologize, I just couldn't help talking about it at work, I couldn't talk about it at home).

At one point, about two weeks ago, Dave asked if I was getting a headache I was just too quiet!  I was quiet because I had all these things to get done before the kids came and I didn't want to blurt and blow it.  Oh, it was painful.

So, they are here, it was a surprise, and we had a wonderful day visiting and ended the evening with a delicious meal and a family favorite, Barbeque Ribs.  During dinner, looking around the table at the blond boy, the DIL and two of their friends that stopped by, we did get the waterworks from Dave we were hoping for earlier in the day.

These ribs are one of the most highly requested meal from the boys.  We will be having these while the curly haired boy and the baby boy are home too.  They are baked slowly to make them tender, then finished with smoke and this homemade barbeque sauce.  Even at -20, these are worth heating up the grill.

Baby Back Ribs
I figure 1 rack of ribs per 2 people

3 racks of baby back ribs
3 Tbsp. executive chef meat seasoning, or your favorite steak rub

 Preheat oven to 300°F.
Pull the membrane off the back side of the ribs. Place the rack of ribs on a double layer of aluminum foil.  Sprinkle 1 Tbsp. steak seasoning on meat side of ribs.  Wrap tightly in foil. Repeat with all racks.
Place foil wrapped ribs on a large cookie sheet to catch any drips (this is the most important step, trust me on this).
Bake for 3 hours.
Remove foil wrapped ribs, cut into sections of 2 or 3 bones each.  Place on heated grill with smoking wood chip box if desired.  Grill for 30 minutes with smoke and layer on favorite sauce over indirect heat. Repeat saucing every 10-15 minutes while smoking.

Serves 6

November 20, 2012   Daylight 5 hours, 41 minutes, 14 seconds   Temp. H -8/L -26 °F

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Gingerbread Biscotti

I love the smell of gingerbread and spice cookies.  I love the way the house fills with the warm smell of the spices and vanilla.  I always make molasses spice cookies, I love the chewy-crispy-spicy cookies and the memories of my grandma.  This year I wanted to try something different.  I wanted to keep that spicy flavor and aroma, but put a twist on it.  Enter, Gingerbread Biscotti.

These biscotti are filled with warm spices; ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and studded with pecans and dried apricots.  During the second bake, you can bake about 10 minutes and leave the centers a little soft, or bake for 15-20 minutes like I did and they are great for dunking in your coffee or tea, with out falling apart and leaving pieces in your mug.

The other nice thing about biscotti is that they are a very lean cookie, no oil and only the fat from the egg yolk.  You can enjoy two without overdoing the calorie thing...or at least that is what I'm telling myself.

Gingerbread Biscotti
The best of Fine Cooking Cookies, #23

10 oz. (about 2 1/4 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; plus more for shaping
1-1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar 
2 tsp. ground ginger 
1-1/4 tsp. baking powder 
1 tsp. ground cinnamon 
1/2 tsp. table salt 
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg 
1/4 tsp. baking soda 
4 oz. (1 cup) pecans, coarsely chopped 
4 oz. (1/2 cup) lightly packed dried apricots, coarsely chopped 
1/4 cup molasses 
2 large eggs 
2 tsp. finely grated orange zest (from about 1 medium navel orange) 

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, brown sugar, ginger, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and baking soda on medium-low speed until well blended. On low speed, briefly mix in the pecans and apricots. In a measuring cup, lightly whisk the molasses, eggs, and orange zest. With the mixer on low, slowly pour in the egg mixture. Continue mixing until the dough is well blended and comes together in large, moist clumps, 1 to 2 minutes.

Dump the dough onto an unfloured work surface. Divide into two equal piles (about 1 lb. each). Shape each pile into a log that's 10 inches long and about 1-1/2 inches in diameter, lightly flouring your hands as needed (the dough is a bit sticky).
Position the logs on the lined cookie sheet about 4 inches apart. Bake until the tops are cracked and spring back slightly when gently pressed, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the sheet to a rack and let cool until the logs are cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes.

Carefully peel the biscotti logs from the parchment and transfer to a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, saw each log into diagonal slices 3/4 inch wide. Return the slices to the cookie sheet (no need for fresh parchment) and arrange them cut side down. It's all right if they touch because they won't spread.

Bake until the biscotti are dried to your taste, about 10 minutes (for slightly moist and chewy) to 20 minutes (for super-dry and crunchy). Transfer the cookie sheet to a rack and let the biscotti cool completely. The biscotti will still give slightly when pressed, but will harden as they cool. When cool, store in airtight containers.

November 15, 2012   Daylight  6 hours,  13 minutes, 2 seconds     Temp. -1/-22