Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Chocolate Raspberry Biscotti with Almonds

About once a month the Sunshine Committee at work organizes a luncheon and the proceeds go to a nonprofit in town.  February's luncheon was for the Heart Association.  It's fun to gather for lunch, see people from different departments and floors that you don't usually see and sometimes we play BINGO.  Now don't get too excited, but we do play for prizes!  I have played every time the BINGO cards come out and I never win.  I announced, "I don't know why I even get a card, I never win."  It's fun to play and complain about not winning, so I do, often and loudly.  Well, this time I won! And not once but twice!  I tried to share my second winning BINGO card with someone at my table, but no one would bite.  So I left with two, very cool, prizes.  One of the prizes was a cookbook of 50 best biscotti recipes.  Now I HAVE to make biscotti.  I started with a chocolate chip version. While they were delicious, I needed to work on my shaping technique and the chocolate chips make a mess when you cut them for the second bake.  I had to try again.
These are made with cocoa powder and raspberry jam is added.  They are really good.  I thought about dipping half in chocolate or white chocolate, I'll do that next time.  I also did the second bake for 10 minutes so they aren't teeth shattering hard, but if you want dunkers make sure you do the second bake for the full 15 minutes.  These were yummy with my mid morning coffee, my after nap snack on Saturday and for breakfast on my way to church on Sunday.

Chocolate, Raspberry Biscotti with Almonds
The Best 50 Biscotti Recipes
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 medium egg
2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 cup raspberry jam
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted

In a medium bowl, cream sugar and utter.  Mi in egg.  In a small bowl, combine flour, cocoa and baking powder; add to butter mixture.  Stir in jam.  Divide dough in halves or thirds.  On a well-floured surface, shape into logs.  Transfer logs to a parchment paper-lined or lightly sprayed baking sheet, and bake in a preheated 325º oven for 25 minutes or until firm and lightly browned.  Cool on a rack for at least 5 minutes.  Cut logs on the diagonal into 3/4 inch slices.  Return slices to baking sheet, leaving space around each slice, and continue baking for 10-15 minutes or until desired crispness.  Cool completely on rack.

When shaping the logs make them about 1 inch high.  I used a tape measure to keep it even.

Cool at least 10 minutes, but don't let them completely cool or they are too hard to cut.

Use a sharp serrated knife to cut, try not to cut back and forth too much or the edges crumble.

I put them in a ziplock to take the extras to work and they got all soft.  Probably because I didn't bake them to full crisp on the second baking.  It is something to work on.

February 29, 2012     Daylight  10 hours,  5 minutes,  16 seconds     Current Temp. 0º F

Monday, February 27, 2012

Wheat berry and roasted butternut squash salad

I  like to shop at a little store called Home Grown Market.  It has all Alaska grown/produced items.  I buy my honey there during the winter, we get some lamb chops, we buy beef when we don't get a moose or I just want beef and pork from a local farm off Eielson Farm Road, and I buy wheat berries that are grown down the road in Delta Junction.  I like knowing where my food is coming from and we like to support our local farmers.
I love the taste and texture of wheat berries, the chewy texture, the pop when you break through the berries and the creamy, nutty taste. I'm always looking for new ways to add them to my lunch.  This is a layered salad.  I soak the wheat berries overnight in water with lemon juice, then I cook them until they are tender, about 30 minutes.  Then, I add what ever I have in the fridge.  I like tomatoes and cucumbers, celery for crunch and sugar snap peas for sweetness.  You use what ever you like.
I make this salad for lunch for work.  I usually eat at my desk since that is a busy time of day for me. It is a nice change from lettuce and I'm not a big sandwich person.  Anyone who knows me will laugh at the picture, I do eat an apple every day, but I eat way more chocolate than two little pieces!

Wheat berry and Roasted Butternut Squash Salad
1 cup wheat berries
1 med. butternut squash
English cucumber, seeded and diced
Sugar snap peas, cut in half or thirds
 2 stalks celery, chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
avocado, peeled and diced
8 Tbsp. feta cheese
Salad dressing (I use a spicy Italian vinaigrette)

Soak 1 cup wheat berries 12 to 24 hours in 3 ups water with 3 Tbsp. lemon juice (you can skip this step, but you digest the wheat berries better if you do this).  Place wheat berries and all remaining liquid in saucepan and bring to boil, turn down to simmer for 20-30 minutes or until berries are tender.
Peel butternut squash, cut in half and remove seeds.  Cut in 1" cubes.  Place on cookie sheet and add about 1 Tbsp. olive oil, toss to coat.  Roast at 450º for 40-45 minutes stirring once half way through cooking time.  Let cool.
Add 1/2 cup wheat berries, 1/4 of the butternut squash to plate or container ( I usually get 4 and do them all at once for the week).  Layer vegetables on top, dividing vegetables into fourths.  Top with 2 Tbsp. of your choice of salad dressing. Makes 4 salads

I eat this for lunch with chicken or salmon.  YUM!
Use what ever veggies you like or happen to have on hand.
Sometimes I add apples or pears and top with blue cheese instead of feta.  Then I use a blue cheese vinaigrette.

February 24, 2012     Daylight  9 hours, 48 minutes,  50 seconds     Current Temp. 5º F

Friday, February 24, 2012

Maple Bourbon Sour

I am a little schizophrenic when it comes to the cooking magazines I read.  I really want to eat in a more healthy way, and I want my husband to be around for a long time so I want him to eat healthily too.  So I subscribe to Cooking Light, Clean Eating, and Taste of Home's Healthy Eating.  I love to read about different foods, places, and techniques so I subscribe to Cook's Illustrated and Cuisine at Home and I love the photography in Bon Appetite.  I read a lot of magazines!

Well, I've made a February resolution (it is too late for a New Year's Resolution or a Birthday Resolution, so why not?), I am going to cook 5 recipes from Cooking Light and 5 recipes from Clean Eating each month.  Why the resolution?  I said I read a lot of magazines, I didn't say I cooked from them.  I want a healthier dinner plate in front of myself and my husband and maybe a few healthier treats too.
I have a plan, before I make my menu for the next two weeks, I'll read Cooking Light and Clean Eating with small stickies, I'll place a stickie on the pages of the recipes that I will cook so when I'm writing the menu I'll already have an idea of recipes that look good.  We will eat healthier, live longer and be happy forever after!  That is the plan.
So, I present the first recipe I put a stickie on from March's Cooking Light:  The Maple Bourbon Sour.  March is maple season after all, and I am all about using seasonal ingredients.  I'll get to the other healthier recipes next week.

Maple Bourbon Sour
Cooking Light, March 2012
6 Tbsp. bourbon
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. maple syrup

Place ingredients in shaker with ice, shake until cold, strain into glasses with ice.  Drink and feel healthy.  Serves 2 (or one if you drink like me)

February 24, 2012     Daylight  9 hours,  28 minutes,  26 seconds     Current Temp. 9 ºF

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Thank You Bars

Sometimes the only way to say "Thank-You" is with something sweet.  Well, at least that is what I think, and practice.  I love the fact that I work with some people that just do what needs to be done, with a smile on their face and don't expect a thing in return.  I like to bake for them to say thanks.  I hope it makes their day happier, just like the things they did for me made my day happier.
As part of my great pantry purge (see details here), I made these cookie bars for our building's custodian.  Terry is always cheerful, always happy to help, even if it means emptying the garbage for me twice in a matter of 30 minutes, or chipping ice outside at -30 so we don't slip.  He is calm and cheerful, especially when I'm hyperventilating about a small thing that needs to get done and I'm in the middle of training.  He is one of those guys that helps you look good.  Thanks Terry.

Thank You Cookie Bars
1/2 cup butter
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter chips

Preheat oven to 350º F.  Cut butter into 7 or 8 pieces, put in 9 X 13 pan and melt butter in oven.  When butter is completely melted remove pan from oven.  Sprinkle cookie crumbs evenly over butter and press down. Pour sweetened condensed milk over crumbs.  Sprinkle chocolate chips and peanut butter chips evenly over crumbs and milk.  Bake 20-25 minutes until edges are golden brown.  Remove from oven and cool completely before cutting.
Makes 24 cookies

I used a bag of mixed peanut butter and chocolate chips.  I also have a bag of Reese's peanut butter cup chips I will use for another batch.

I used a pastry brush to brush some of the melted butter on the sides of the pan to prevent sticking.

I cut 12 big squares then each square diagonally to make 24 triangles.

I'm buying a new camera tonight.  Let's see if my pictures improve!

February  22, 2012     Daylight  9 hours,  14 minutes,  48 seconds     Current Temp. 10 º F

Monday, February 20, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

To say I am a little forgetful is an understatement.  Really, I just have a lot on my mind and every once in a while something really important slips out!
One morning I was getting dressed.  I dress in lots of layers because I live in a cold hell-hole winter wonderland.  So, I have my undies, my camisole, my tights, my slip, my skirt, my shirt and then my jacket.  I am always cold so lots of layers.  While I was getting dressed, I couldn't find the particular shirt I wanted.  My husband said it was hanging up down in the laundry room.  I put on my camisole, my tights, my slip, my skirt and my jacket and went downstairs to get my shirt.
Mason, my youngest was sitting at the table eating.  He said he needed a check for school pictures that day, so I wrote a check for him.  He kissed me and off he went to high school.  I got coffee, made my lunch, let the dogs out and in, kissed my husband and off I went to an early meeting with my boss.  I was in her office and we were visiting a moment.  She said she liked the pin I was wearing and I looked down to see which one it was. AND I SAW I FORGOT TO PUT MY SHIRT ON!  I got so busy with everything else, I was only wearing my camisole.  Thank goodness it was a loose, heavy one, I'm cold and don't have the sexy, low cut, and lacy varieties, and I had a jacket on, but I was sitting there in my boss's office in my underwear.  I couldn't even think.  We finished the meeting and I went straight home and put my shirt on.  Luckily, I have never forgotten my shirt since.

These cookies are also made of lots of layers.  If you forget a layer you will probably miss it, unlike me and my shirt, but I'm sure you don't let things slip out of your mind like I do.  These cookies are part of the great pantry purge click here for full explanation

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars
adapted from the Pillsbury Calendar in my kitchen
One package oatmeal cookie mix
1 cup peanut butter
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup peanuts, chopped
1 pkg. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350º F.  Spray 9 X 13 pan with cooking spray, line with parchment paper with two sides hanging over edges, spray lightly again.

Make oatmeal cookie mix as directed on package (or make your own favorite oatmeal cookie recipe).  Spread on the bottom of prepared 9 X 13 pan. Bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat peanut butter, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla together until creamy.  Carefully spread over par-baked cookie crust.  Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the chopped peanuts, press into peanut butter batter.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and middle is set.  Remove from oven and evenly spread chocolate chips over the top.  Let sit about 5 minutes to melt.  Spread evenly with off-set spatula or knife.  Sprinkle remaining peanuts over the top, pressing lightly to adhere to the chocolate.  Cool completely.

Remove from pan with parchment paper.  Peel paper off sides of cookies.  Cut into 1 inch squares.

February 20, 2012     Daylight  9 hours,  4 minutes,  4 seconds     Current Temp.  -8 º F

Friday, February 17, 2012

Better Than Sex Caketini

So we come to the end of Valentine's Day week and the Better than Sex theme.  The drink of the week comes to us from The Snappy Gourmet.  I came across this a while ago and have been saving it for this week.  The combination of the cake vodka, pineapple juice, coconut milk and vanilla pudding are genius! We are going to have a couple of these, watch the sun set at 5:25 (exciting that we are over 8 hours of daylight!) and then who knows what will happen.
Enjoy your weekend.

Better Than Sex Caketini
adapted from The Snappy Gourmet (see original recipe here)
  • 1/4 cup Pinnacle Cake Flavored Vodka
  • 1/4 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/4 cup vanilla flavored coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon French vanilla pudding mix
  • Whipped cream
  • Chocolate sprinkles
  1. Mix vodka, pineapple juice, coconut milk, and pudding mix in shaker with ice. Shake for about 30 seconds.
  2. Strain into glass. Top with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles as desired.

February 17, 2012     Daylight 8 hours, 43 minutes,  35 seconds     Current Temp.  7 ºF

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Better than Sex Cake

As promised, we continue our Better than Sex theme for Valentine's day-week.  This cake recipe is very old.  My grandmother gave it to me when I was in high school.  This is the grandma that didn't bake a lot, so the use of a cake mix is not a surprise.  But it is good, sweet, creamy and you don't need a lot to tame that sweet tooth.  In the Crazy Cooking Challenge, one of the bloggers made a gluten free version (Find version here from Cheese Curd in Paradise).  The most special thing about this recipe is the recipe written in my grandmother's handwriting.  It really didn't seem like a big deal until I lost two recipes written in my grandma Stejer's handwriting in our house fire 11 years ago.  This tiny connection to my grandma is something special to me.
I made this cake and took it to work for Soup Wednesday, along with a moose steak pottage.  Both were really good and the perfect meal for mid-week.

Better than Sex Cake
1 box German chocolate cake mix
1 can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 jar caramel ice cream topping
1 container cool whip
1 pkg. chocolate toffee bits

Make chocolate cake as directed on box.  Bake in a 9 X 13 pan.  As soon as it comes out of the oven pike holes in it all over ( I used a chopstick).  Pour caramel sauce and milk over top.  Let cool and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.  Top with cool whip and toffee bits.

I had homemade caramel sauce in the fridge so I used that instead of a jar (find recipe here)
I didn't have a chocolate cake mix so I used a yellow cake mix and added 3/4 cup of cocoa powder and a little extra water.

February 15, 2012     Daylight  8 hours,  27 minutes,  2 seconds     Current Temp.  8ºF

Monday, February 13, 2012

Better than Sex Chex-Mix

In honor of the sweetheart's holiday, Valentine's Day, and because everywhere I turn around I see something that is supposed to be "better than sex" (my grandmother gave me a cake recipe called the same thing, it will come later this week), I have dedicated this week to all things labeled or named "Better Than Sex"  Personally, I am not convinced, but I'll share these recipes with you.
My curiosity with the BTS (better than sex) label on all these things started a couple of months ago when I started to clean out my very old and disorganized recipe box.  I noticed I had a couple of cake recipes that all had similar names, but very different ingredients.  One cake was called Better than Sex (from my grandma), one was Better than Robert Redford (from an older teacher I worked with about 20 years ago), one was Better than Brad Pitt (from a younger teacher I worked with, but about 15 years ago).  I know it will be time to throw my hat in when someone gives me a cake called Better than Justin Bieber!  I then ran across a drink called BTS I'll share on Friday and now a Chex-Mix called BTS.  So, a week of things that are BTS (I'm not going to take a poll at the end of the week to see if you agree if any of these things are BTS, really).
I made a big batch of this, put some in these heart boxes shown below and some in clear cellophane bags and added a pretty bow as a gift for co-workers.  I didn't put the name on it, I do work in a school building after all, just a pink card with Happy Valentine's Day. 
I could not find chocolate Chex in Fairbanks.  I looked in all three grocery stores so I substituted 4 cups of Cinnamon Chex and 4 cups of Cocoa Puffs Brownie Squares.  If anyone in Fairbanks finds chocolate Chex let me know so I can make this again...although it is really good with the Cocoa Puff Brownie Squares.

Better Than Sex Chex-Mix
 from Quick Dish

Better than Sex Chex Mix

Better than Sex Chex Mix 
Rated 5.0 Stars
  • 15 min
  • 30 min
  • 16 servings


  • 8  cups Chocolate Chex® cereal
  • 3/4  cup packed brown sugar
  • 6  tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 3  tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/4  teaspoon baking soda
  • 1  cup Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, MINI size
  • 1 cup MINIATURE marshmallows
  • 1/2  cup caramel bits (found by the chocolate chips in the baking aisle -- or chop up regular caramels)
  • 1 Tbsp heavy cream
  • 1/2  cup MILK chocolate baking chips (or more if you're a huge chocolate fan)
  • 1/2  cup vanilla (white) chocolate baking chips
  • 1 tsp coarse sea salt


  1. Into large microwavable bowl, measure cereal; set aside. Line cookie sheet with waxed paper or foil.
  2. In 2-cup microwavable measuring cup, microwave brown sugar, butter and corn syrup uncovered on High 1 to 2 minutes, stirring after 1 minute, until melted and smooth. Stir in baking soda until dissolved. Pour caramel mixture over cereal, stirring until evenly coated. Microwave on High 3 minutes, stirring every minute. Spread on cookie sheet. Cool 10 minutes. Break into bite-sized pieces.
  3. Make sure Chex mixture is cool to the touch (so candy doesn't melt.) Evenly sprinkle mini peanut butter cups candy and miniature marshmallows over Chex mixture.
  4. In small microwavable bowl, microwave caramel baking bits and cream uncovered on High about 1 minute or until chips can be stirred smooth. Use a spoon or fork to drizzle over snack. Repeat with milk chocolate baking chips. Repeat again with vanilla (white) baking chips. Quickly sprinkle coarse salt over all while candy drizzles are still wet.
  5. Refrigerate until set. Break apart and store in tightly covered container. Perfect for gift giving.
 February 13. 2012     Daylight  8 hours,  13 minutes,  22 seconds     Current Temp.  17 ºF

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Apple, Onion and Bacon Stuffed Porkchops

Growing up I spent winters in Kansas and summers in Fairbanks.  In Kansas, we lived on a farm, not a working farm, just a big house in the country with some out-buildings.  We had a chicken coop and got 100 chickens every spring to butcher in the fall, we also had laying hens for the fresh eggs.   We always got 3 turkeys for the holidays, we got a spring pig,  a calf and one year we got geese, but they became one of my mom's pets (that is another story).  We also had other animals that were pets, a Shetland pony, a goat named Twerp that was my sister's 4-H project, peacocks (my mom loved unusual pets), a de-scented skunk, a raccoon named Heather and a ferret.
One spring the pig got out of the pig pen.  Little pigs are friendly and we played with it, scratched it and fed it little treats.  Pigs are also extremely smart and this little guy was no exception.  He would follow us around like a dog, looking for treats and attention.  We named him Peaches and he became a pet, no one ever got around to fixing the pig pen that year so Peaches had the run of the farm.  We had summer break and left for Alaska, then came back in the early fall to get ready for school.  Peaches had grown quite a bit, but was still as gentle and friendly as when we left.  He continued to follow us around looking for treats.  He would greet cars in the driveway and people would honk their horns to get someone to come out and move the pig before they would get out of their cars.  We started school and Peaches would walk us to the end of the driveway as we waited  for the bus then sit under the walnut tree eating fallen walnuts and sitting in the shade until we got home from school.
Fall in the real world (that is what we call everywhere else besides Alaska) is a busy, food filled time.  In Kansas, we would pick apples at the apple orchards and spend the week making apple butter, apple pie filling, apple sauce and eating ourselves sick with apples.  We would go to the peach orchard and do the same with peaches.  We always had a big garden so we would spend days digging potatoes, picking green beans and pulling carrots.  Our dinners revolved around what ever was in season and what we had just harvested.  One day, shortly after the peach orchard visit, we came home from school, busy with homework and gossip about our day.  Dinner time rolled around and we asked our mom what was for dinner.
"Peaches,"  was her answer.
And then she proceeded to bring pork chops to the table.
We expected the peaches we had picked at the peach orchard, but no, our pet, our friend was on the table.  We were appalled, burst into tears and didn't eat that night, or any other night pork was on the menu.
It did take me a couple of years to get over the trauma  of that experience.  But my husband loves pork chops and he will cook them.  He does this wonderful dish of apples, onions and bacon stuffed in pork chops.  It is over the top and to-die-for.  I'm so sorry Peaches, but sometimes I even request that he make them.

Apple, Onion and Bacon stuffed Pork Chops
4 thick cut pork loin chops,  each about 1 inch thick
8 pieces center cut bacon, diced
2 med. yellow onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced finely
2 med. crisp apples, cored and cut in rings
8 oz. mushrooms (optional)
splash red wine (optional)

Fry bacon in skillet.  Drain on paper towels.  Drain skillet of all but 2 Tbsp. bacon fat.
Add onion, saute in bacon fat until soft. Add mushrooms to pan and continue to cook for about 5 minutes.  Add a splash of red wine.   Add minced garlic and saute for 1 minute more.
In separate saute pan, spray with cooking spray, add apple slices.  Cook until tender.
Cut pocket in pork chop down long edge  not cutting through the fat side.
Stuff equal amounts of bacon in each pork chop, reserving 1/2 for top. Using 1/2 of the onion-mushroom mixture, stuff pork chops evenly.
In skillet used for bacon, preheat to on medium high, add some olive oil or cooking spray if needed.  Place pork chops in pan and cook 3 minutes on one side.  Carefully turn pork chops, so not to lose filling, cook second side covering  pan and turning heat down to medium low and cooking until pork chops are cooked through about 5-7 minutes.
Plate each pork chop, top equally with remaining onion-mushroom mixture, bacon and apple rings.
Serves 4

February 9, 2012     Daylight  7 hours,  46 minutes,  6 seconds     Current Temp. 18 ºF

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Chocolate Cake and Crazy Cooking Challenge

I LOVE chocolate cake, who am I kidding, I love all cake, but especially chocolate.  This month's Crazy Cooking Challenge is right up my alley and I knew immediately what cake I was going to make.

The Galley Gourmet posted this cake in January and I needed an excuse to make it.  Really, a whole chocolate cake when there are only two of us home?  And it is January so I promised to cook more healthfully, for a while.  Well now I need to make this cake, you can't let the Crazy Cooking Challenge down!
I love the recipes on this blog.  I cruise through Tastespotting almost every day and I found myself going to this blog time after time.  I finally just subscribed to to and put a link on my blog so I could find it easier.  This cake was beautiful, and I needed to eat it, up to the little homemade marshmallows on top.  So Thank You Crazy Cooking Challenge for giving me the excuse very important reason to make this cake.

Hot Chocolate Layer Cake with Homemade Marshmallows
serves 16

For the Cake
6 ounces (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
13 1/2 ounces (3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup canola oil
4 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons espresso powder
3 cups granulated sugar
2 1/4 ounces (3/4 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
3 extra large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
2 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the Frosting
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 ounces (6 Tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean; split lengthwise and seeds scraped out
6 ounces semisweet chocolate
2 cups granulated sugar
6 ounces (2 cups) unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup Lyle's Golden Syrup
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 small jar marshmallow cream

Vanilla Marshmallows (Recipe Follows)
(You will only need half a batch of marshmallows for the top of the cake.  You can make half the batch in an 8x8-inch pan or make the whole batch and store the leftovers for another use.  For the cake garnish, cut the marshmallows into different sizes from 1/4 to 3/4 inch square.)
Cocoa Powder for dusting

For the Cake
Preheat the oven to 350º F.  Line three 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper and lightly spray with non-stick baking spray. In a 3-quart saucepan, combine the butter, oil, chopped chocolate, and water over medium heat until melted.  Whisk in the espresso powder.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and cocoa powder.  Pour the hot chocolate mixture into the sugar mixture and whisk until combined.  Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, then whisk in the buttermilk, vanilla, baking soda, and salt.  Evenly divide the batter between the prepared pans.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes.  Cool on the rack for 10 minutes, then invert onto the racks, remove parchment and cool completely.  (Cakes can be made one day ahead wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature, or freeze for up to one month).

For the Frosting
In a 4-quart saucepan over low heat, combine the cream, butter, vanilla bean, and seeds.  Stir until the butter is melted.  Remove the vanilla bean and whisk in the chopped chocolate.  Whisk in the sugar, cocoa powder, syrup, espresso powder, and salt; making sure the cocoa powder is dissolved.  Strain the frosting through a fine-mesh sieve set over a 9x13-inch pan.  Freeze until firm, about 2 hours, or refrigerate overnight. (Frosting can be refrigerated for up to three days)

Assemble the Cake
Remove the frosting from the refrigerator or freezer and transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes to soften.  Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  

On a flat serving platter or cake stand (edges lined with strips of waxed or parchment paper to keep it clean while icing), place one cake layer.  Using an off-set spatula, spread 1 1/2 cups of frosting evenly to the edges.Add one very thin layer of marshmallow cream.  Repeat with another cake layer and another 1 1/2 cups frosting and a thin layer of marshmallow cream.  Top with the last cake layer. Spread a thin layer (or crumb coat) of frosting over the top and sides of the cake; refrigerate until the frosting is firm enough to seal in the crumbs, about 30 minutes.  Spread the remaining frosting in a smooth layer over the entire cake.  Carefully remove the paper strips to make a clean bottom edge.
Mound the marshmallow on top of the cake and dust the top of the marshmallow with cocoa powder. Enjoy! 

Don't skip the step of pouring the frosting through the fine mesh sieve.  Someone (I won't mention names, Dave) broke mine just a few days ago and I haven't had the chance to replace it.  The frosting wasn't as smooth as I would like it.

Next time I will not add the marshmallow cream.  It was my brilliant idea to add this, and the marshmallow cream is a little thick and makes the layers slide around a bit.

February 7, 2012    Daylight 7 hours, 35 minutes, 22 seconds     Current Temp. -6 º F

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Friday, February 3, 2012

Piña Colada

Dave is especially tired of the cold.  It might have something to do with all the wood he has to carry in every day.  He decided he wanted to have a summer theme for Superbowl Sunday.  We are planning on ribs on the grill (it is supposed to be only -2), corn on the cob, baked beans and Piña Coladas.  These just taste like summer, fruity from the pineapple juice, creamy from the coconut cream, and cold, blended with ice for a frosty finish and rum to warm you from the inside out.  We are dreaming of summer and if you sit close enough to the wood stove, close your eyes and sip your drink, you can almost believe it is close.

Piña Colada
crushed ice
2 measures white rum
1 measure dark rum 
3 measures pineapple juice
2 measures coconut cream
pineapple wedges to decorate

Mix crushed ice in a blender with the rum, pineapple juice and coconut cream until smooth.  Pour into a tall chilled glass and dress with the pineapple wedge.

February 3, 2012     Daylight  7 hours,  5 minutes,  24 seconds     Current Temp. -4 ºF

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


January has been a cold one.  We hit -50º F for the first time in 6 years.  It's bad enough that it is so dark and cold, but to break cold records is really not anything anyone wants to do.
One of the joys of retirement and my new job is the time and temperature sign across the street.  I see it from my window.  Every day about 11:15 I check the temperature and get so much satisfaction out of the fact that I'm not doing indoor recess duty or if it is -19º or warmer, outside recess duty.  Kids in Fairbanks go outside for their 30 minute recess until -20º.  One of my friends said they have had indoor recess for 24 days now.  I think my co-workers got tired of me announcing the time and temp. every day with the comment "It's 27 below, I don't have to do indoor recess duty." or "It's 18 below, I don't have to do outside recess duty."
My husband complains every evening about the fact that he has to bring wood in for the wood stove. (I guess it is kind of like his recess duty!)  I'm sure it gets old, bundling up, going outside and carrying several armloads of wood.  He usually does it twice a day.  I felt sort of sorry for him, so I planned a nice warm Cioppino.  I don't eat bi-valves and I don't really like shrimp, so I made the soup base, cooked the fish, scallops and clams separately, then put the fish in the bowl and covered with the soup base, then added the scallops and clams to his bowl.  We rounded the meal out with a crisp salad and warm crusty bread from the oven.  It was heaven.  Now that I warmed him up, he can go outside and bring some wood in.

adapted from Cooking Light, January 2012


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups vertically sliced onion
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup organic vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 (35-ounce) can whole tomatoes with basil, rinsed, drained, and coarsely chopped
  • 1 (10-ounce) yellowtail snapper fillet, cut into 8 (1-inch) cubes
  • 4 sea scallops (about 6 ounces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 medium peeled and deveined shrimp (about 5 ounces)
  • 12 littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat; swirl to coat. Add onion; sauté 1 minute. Add garlic; reduce heat to medium. Cover and cook 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add wine and next 5 ingredients (through tomatoes); cover. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes.
2. Sprinkle snapper and scallops with black pepper. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil; swirl to coat. Add snapper and scallops; cook 90 seconds on each side or until golden brown. Add snapper, scallops, shrimp, and clams to broth mixture. Cover and cook 4 minutes or until clams open; discard any unopened shells. Stir in parsley and lemon juice.

I used a can of diced tomatoes with basil.  It is what I had in my pantry.  The soup was a little thicker than a traditional Cioppino because of it.  Drain the tomatoes for a more broth-like consistency.

I cooked the fish separately due to food allergies and my aversion to bi-valves.  It was easy to do and would be very doable for a family where kids could build their own bowls with a selection of seafood.

I used Halibut for our fish, you can use any white sustainable fish you like.

February 1, 2012     Daylight  6 hours,  51 minutes,  56 seconds     Current Temp. -25 º F