Friday, March 30, 2012

Fairbanks' Spring Sunrise

It is official, Spring is here.  I just received my first weekly email from The Plant Kingdom (Find their website here).  I love the Plant Kingdom, all the plants are organically grown and pest control is organic.  There is something calming (and a little surreal) about walking through a greenhouse, after all this cold and snow, and seeing lady bugs walking around on the plants!
So to celebrate the real beginning of Spring in Fairbanks, and because the sky starts getting light  at about 5:30 now (official sunrise is around 7:30), we have the Fairbanks Spring Sunrise for drink of the week.  It is a fruity, tart drink that wakes up your senses (after being about sense-less at the end of winter).

Fairbanks' Spring Sunrise
adapted from Sandra Lee Cocktail Time
Makes 1 drink

2 oz. pink grapefruit juice
1.5 oz citrus flavored vodka
1/4 oz. orange liqueur
splash maraschino cherry juice

In cocktail shaker, combine grapefruit juice, vodka and orange liqueur.  Add ice, cover and shake until well blended and cold.  Strain into glass, pour maraschino cherry juice inside one side, slowly, and let settle to bottom of glass.  Enjoy.

March 30, 2012     Daylight  13 hours,  24 minutes,  51 seconds     Current Temp.  17ºF

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Tiger Bread - Daring Kitchen Challenge

I love to bake bread.  I think I might have mentioned that before.  I love the smell of the yeast, the feel of the dough when you work with it, the smell of baking bread, it all is very comforting.  I was very excited about this month's Daring Kitchen challenge because it involves baking bread!  This was a wonderful thing to do this weekend.  We took the three big dogs for their annual trip to the vet, ran errands it seemed like all over town and then I warmed up in the kitchen by baking bread and we had hot, crusty bread with dinner.

Here is the introduction for this month's hosts and instructions from the Daring Kitchen:

First, let us introduce ourselves. We are Sara and Erica from Baking JDs. During our first year of law school, we discovered Daring Bakers and decided that monthly baking was just the thing to get us to take a break from our studies and do something that we both already loved. Since we graduated in May 2010, we’ve continued the tradition. As busy attorneys, it hasn’t gotten any easier to find the time, but it’s always worth it.
Both of us live in San Francisco, which is home to all kinds of culinary traditions. Of course, sourdough bread is one of the first things that springs to people’s minds. For our challenge, however, we’ve decided to make Dutch Crunch bread. Sara grew up in the Bay Area, but was dismayed when she moved away for college that Dutch Crunch bread is not usually available outside of Northern California. For many folks from the Bay Area, a sandwich just isn’t complete without Dutch Crunch bread.
Technically, Dutch Crunch doesn’t refer to the type of bread, but rather the topping that is spread over the bread before baking. In Dutch it’s called Tijgerbrood or “tiger bread” after the tiger-like shell on the bread when it comes out of the oven. The final product has a delightful sweet crunch to it that makes it perfect for a sandwich roll. It’s a common option at sandwich shops all over the Bay Area and is often one of the first breads to run out.
Learn more about the history of Dutch Crunch bread, particularly in the Bay Area, here, here, and here.
Therefore, the heart of this challenge is the topping. While we’ve provided a few bread recipes that worked great for us, it is up to you what rolls or loaves you want to turn into Dutch Crunch, which should leave room for vegan and gluten-free options. We’d recommend a nice, soft sandwich-appropriate roll with not too much crust, so the topping can really stand out. Once you have your final loaves, you’re required to use your bread to construct a sandwich of your choice!

So, I started with the bread recipe they suggested:

Soft White Roll

Servings: Six sandwich rolls
This recipe approximates the quintessential white sandwich roll found throughout the Bay Area. The recipe is simple, quick, and addictive.
1 tablespoon (1 packet) (15 ml) (7 gm/ ¼ oz) active dry yeast
¼ cup (60 ml) warm water (105-110º F) (41-43°C) (No need to use a thermometer – it should feel between lukewarm and hot to the touch).
1 cup (240 ml) warm milk (105-110º F) (41-43°C) (We’ve tried both nonfat and 2%, with no noticeable difference)
1½ tablespoons (22½ ml) (20 gm/ ⅔ oz) sugar
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil (plus additional olive or vegetable oil for greasing bowl during rising)
1½ teaspoons (7½ ml) (9 gm/⅓ oz) salt
Up to 4 cups (960 ml) (600 gm/21oz) all purpose flour
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer or large mixing bowl, combine yeast, water, milk and sugar. Stir to dissolve and let sit for about 5 minutes (The mixture should start to bubble or foam a bit and smell yeasty).
2. Add in vegetable oil, salt and 2 cups of flour. Using the dough hook attachment or a wooden spoon, mix at medium speed until the dough comes together.
3. Add remaining flour a quarter cup at time until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, as shown in the photo below (For us, this usually required an additional 1½ to 2 cups of flour).

4. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 4 minutes, until smooth and elastic.
5. Place in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 1 hour, or until doubled (or more) in size.

6. Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into 6 equal portions (if you’d like to make rolls) or 2 equal portions (if you’d like to make a loaf) (using a sharp knife or a dough scraper works well). Shape each into a ball or loaf and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet (try not to handle the dough too much at this point).
7. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 15 minutes while you prepare the topping.
8. Coat the top of each roll or loaf with the topping as described above. While the original recipe recommends letting them stand for 20 minutes after applying the topping, I got better results by putting them directly into the oven.
9. Once you’ve applied the topping, bake in a preheated moderately hot 380ºF/190°C/gas mark 5 for 25-30 minutes, until well browned. Let cool completely on a wire rack before eating.

Dutch Crunch Topping

Servings: This recipe should make sufficient topping for two 9x5 loaves (23cmx13cm) or 12 rolls. If you make only 6 rolls in the first soft white roll recipe, you can cut the topping recipe in half.

We’ve provided this recipe first because it is the mandatory aspect of the challenge. Note, however, that you should not prepare the topping until the bread you’ve selected to bake is almost finished rising (~15 minutes from baking).

2 tablespoons (2 packets) (30 ml) (15 gm/½ oz) active dry yeast
1 cup (240 ml) warm water (105-115º F) (41-46°C)
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (30 gm/1 oz) sugar
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil
½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (3 gm) salt
1½ cups (360 ml) (240 gm/8½ oz) rice flour (white or brown; NOT sweet or glutinous rice flour) (increase by 1 cup or more for home-made rice flour)
1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and beat with a whisk; beat hard to combine. The consistency should be like stiff royal icing – spreadable, but not too runny. If you pull some up with your whisk, as shown below, it should drip off slowly. Add more water or rice flour as necessary. Let stand 15 minutes.
2. Coat the top of each loaf or roll with a thick layer of topping. We tried coating it with a brush but it worked better just to use fingers or a spoon and kind of spread it around. You should err on the side of applying too much topping – a thin layer will not crack properly.
3. Let stand, uncovered, for any additional time your recipe recommends. With the Soft White Roll, you can place the rolls directly into the oven after applying the topping. With the Brown Rice Bread, the loaves should stand for 20 minutes with the topping before baking.
4. When baking, place pans on a rack in the center of the oven and bake your bread as you ordinarily would. The Dutch Crunch topping should crack and turn a nice golden-brown color.

Thanks to Sara and Erica for the great challenge.  I already have requests from my husband for more rolls.

One very large meatball sandwich we shared for dinner.  This held 20 meatballs!

I made 6 rolls, and they were huge (about 5 oz each roll)!  I made a bar-b-que meatball sandwich and we shared the sandwich and had some left-over.  Next time I'll make them 3 oz. each and I think that will be a better size.  I'll try them with hamburgers this weekend.

March 28, 2012     Daylight  13 hours,  11 minutes,  20 seconds     Current Temp. 26ºF

Monday, March 26, 2012

Cherry Danish

What a treat,  a hot cup of coffee, a warm cherry danish and afternoon sun coming through the window.

When I worked at a middle school for a year, I did a lot of "duty".  Morning and afternoon bus duty, lunch duty, breakfast duty, hall duty, after school bus duty,  LOTS of duty.  Every morning, I would greet the kids as they got off the bus.  Then, after the last bus, I would go into the cafeteria and do breakfast duty.  After the second bell rang I would go to the office to see how many bus misconducts I had to deal with, not a pleasant job.  I got in the habit of getting a cherry danish on my way to the office to "sweeten up the day" before I started the discipline part of my morning.  Mr. J, the safety monitor would also get a cherry danish and we would plan for the day or share a laugh before we went on with what we needed to do.  Cherry was the favorite so we always tried to beat each other to the counter in case there was only one left.
One particularly busy morning, an altercation kept me from breakfast duty.  By the time I got that all taken care of and all the phone calls made, it was later in the morning.  I really deserved a cherry danish at that point.  I called down to the lunch room and asked if there were any left.  "Only one, I have it aside for you."  My attitude really brightened.  I headed down the hall with a smile on my face and a skip in my step.
Mr. J saw me walking down toward the lunch room.  He also had been busy all morning with the problem and realized what I was doing.  He headed in the same direction.  I began to walk a little faster, as did he, I walked faster still and so did he.  I began to jog, just a little...before we got to the lunchroom, we were running trying to beat the other to the cherry danish.  I am faster so I won!  It was delicious.  He had to eat apple.
Later that day one of the teachers asked what the emergency was that both the intern principal and the safety monitor were running through the hall.  It must have bee pretty serious!  If she only knew how serious it really was.
This is a quick and easy way to make danish at home.  I use a store bought puff pastry, cream cheese and top with (gasp) canned cherry pie filling.  It is wonderful, warm and really hits the spot.  Mr. J could have one too, and he wouldn't have to run.
Large cherry danish ready for the oven.

Quick Cherry Danish
1 pkg. puff pastry, cut into 4" squares
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 tsp. lemon zest
1/4 cup sugar
1 can cherry pie filling
1 egg

Mix cream cheese, lemon zest and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Lay out one sheet of puff pastry, roll lightly to remove creases, cut into 4" squares. Fold each edge up about 1/8".

 Put a heaping teaspoon of cream cheese mixture into center of square.   Add a teaspoon of cherry pie filling on top of cream cheese mixture (I try to get more cherries and less jelly). Fold two opposite corners toward each other and pinch points together over filling. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet.  Beat egg with a Tbsp. cold water.  Using a pastry brush, brush egg wash over the pastry.
Bake at 400º F for  15-20 minutes, until pastry is golden brown.
These didn't stay closed, I had to eat them to destroy the evidence.  These were small snack size danish.

4" make a small snack size danish, or cut the sheet into 4 and get a large danish
Make sure you get the top pressed together well or it will pop open, use some egg wash to ensure it closes.

March 26, 2012     Daylight  12 hours,  57 minutes,  51 seconds     Current Temp. 13 ºF

Friday, March 23, 2012

Adult Hot Chocolate and the Open North American Dog Races

Last weekend Fairbanks hosted the Open North American Dog Races.  Those races happen here every year and are a sure sign of Spring.  The days are usually bright, and the sun is up a lot longer than just a month ago, but the temperatures are often really cold.  This year is no exception.
My husband was volunteering at one of the check points on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  I went out on Sunday to take a couple of pictures, it was bright, but cold.  All 17 teams passed our check point in about 30 minutes, but that was long enough to get pretty cold.  I went home and made some rich, delicious, adult-only hot chocolate.  You can make this kid friendly by leaving out the peppermint schnapps and adding some peppermint extract.

This weekend we are going to go to the ice park and see the ice carvings, I see more adult hot chocolate in my future!
My husband Dave, in the fox hat, and Smitty, in the red coat, keeping track of the mushers.

 Adult Hot Chocolate

Food Network Magazine, March 2012, Anne Burrell's version
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 4 shots peppermint schnapps


In a saucepan, combine the whole milk, evaporated milk and vanilla and warm up over low heat.
Combine the cocoa powder, sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon in a bowl. Whisk the cocoa mixture into the warm milk mixture until smooth. Bring to a boil, whisking frequently to prevent it from scorching.
Remove the hot chocolate from the heat just after it has come to a boil. The mixture should be super rich and thick.  Pour into 4 mugs, add 1 shot peppermint schnapps to each mug, stir. 

March 23, 2012     Daylight  12 hours,  37 minutes,  37 seconds     Current Temp. -5 ºF

Monday, March 19, 2012

Crab and Goat Cheese Ravioli

It is Spring Break and that means  one thing in Fairbanks, snow shoveling!  At least at my house.  There is a lot of snow shoveling in Fairbanks all winter, but Spring Break is major snow shoveling time.  My husband really works hard to get the snow off the top deck, off the pavers and off the back deck.  So when the snow does start to melt next month (I hope) the water has someplace to go and doesn't dam up and create a real problem.  He shovels snow and chips ice, hard, every night after work for about two weeks then he just keeps up with getting the water moving.

He has been working hard so I thought he needed a little treat.  I made the parmesan shortbreads from this month's Bon Appétit, but he really didn't care for them so I figured I needed to try again. (By the way, the parmesan shortbreads were awesome!  My backdoor neighbors liked them.)  I've seen recipes for ravioli made with won ton wrappers and so I thought I would try it when I came across yet another recipe with won ton wrappers.
Crab and Goat Cheese Ravioli with a garlic and lemon cream.  They were really delicious and really so easy, I've been inspired to try some other types now.  Can you say moose sausage ravioli?  These are a little hefty in the calorie count, perfect if you have been shoveling a lot of snow.

Crab and Goat Cheese Ravioli
Cuisine at Home, April 2012

For the Ravioli, Combine:
4 oz goat cheese, softened
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives
1/4 tsp. each kosher salt and black pepper
1 can lump crabmeat (6.5 oz) (or fresh if available to you)
32 won ton wraps
2 Tbsp. olive oil

For the Sauce, Saute:
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Lemon zest

For the ravioli, combine goat cheese, chives, salt and pepper in a bowl.  Stir in crabmeat with a fork, keeping lumps as large as possible.
Scoop 2 tsp. (#60 scoop) crabmeat mixture into centers of 16 won ton wraps.  Brush edges of remaining wraps with water and place wet side down over filling, pressing edges to seal.  Trim edges of each ravioli with a cutter, if desired, and reseal edges with water as needed.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium.  Add oil and ravioli in tow batches; cook until brown on one side, 2-3 minutes.  Flip ravioli, add 2 Tbsp. water to skillet, cover, and steam until soft, 1-2 minutes more.  Remove ravioli to a plate.  Repeat with second batch.

For the sauce, saute garlic in butter in a small skillet, 1 minute.  Stir in cream, increase heat to high, and boil until cream is reduced to 1/2 cup, about 5 minutes.  Stir in lemon juice and season sauce with salt and pepper.  Divide sauce between ravioli servings and garnish with zest.

Serves 2

March 19, 2012     Daylight  12 hours, 10 minutes,  40 seconds   Current Temp. -6 ºF

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Wedding Bells

The blond boy called.  He asked, she said yes and now we have a wedding in July. 
It is a strange feeling watching your children grow into adults.  I remember growing up and pulling away from my own mom and never looking back.  Moving from Kansas to Alaska, I never thought a thing about it.  Now my kids are moving from Alaska to Oregon and California and I'm reminding them "call home, I still worry about you".  As my children grow I appreciate how my mother must have felt when I forgot to call for weeks on end and I now understand the saying "a mother's heart lives outside her body".
So, a wedding in July, in California.  The blond boy is happy, we love her to death also.  We are celebrating the joy of him growing into a man and a toast to the sadness of losing the child he used to be.

Wedding Bells
1001 Cocktails

cracked ice
dash orange biters
2 measures rye whiskey
1 measure triple sec
2 measures Lillet

Put some cracked ice into a mixing glass.  Dash orange bitters over the ice and pour in the whiskey, triple sec and Lillet.  Stir well to mix, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Serves 1

February 15, 2012   Daylight 11 hours, 43 minutes, 43 seconds     Current. Temp 18 ºF

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Protein Balls and Fairbanks Fit BootCamp

I go to boot camp at 5:30 a.m. three days a week.  Why would anyone get up at that hour to lift weights, do hand-stands and pull ups?  Have you seen what I eat?  Most of the people there go to build muscle, get fit and lose some weight (see website here).  Not me, I go so I can continue to eat the way I want and still fit into my pants (o.k. maybe build muscle, I am getting older).
Because of the early hour, I get out of bed about 5:10, throw on my work out clothes, brush my teeth, run my fingers through my hair, grab my water bottle and shoes, and leave the house.  I didn't eat anything to start with, but my blood sugar levels didn't like that so I started eating 1/2 a Lara bar on my way to work out and I feel better.  I decided I could make something at home that would fit the bill so I cruised through the Oxygen Magazine website and found this recipe.  I figured I could make these, keep them in the fridge and pop one on my way to torture my wonderful workout!
I really do enjoy the workout...once it is finished.  I hope the trainer doesn't hear all the names I call him in the mornings but I can do real pushups now (a first for this old lady).  It is the little things.

Pre-Workout Peanut Butter Balls
Oxygen Magazine website (click here for website recipe)

  • 1/3 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 scoop chocolate whey protein powder
  • 3 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 3 tbsp dark chocolate chips

  1. Mix together all ingredients. Should be the consistency of Play-Doh. Roll into 14 small balls. Refrigerate to firm them up, overnight for best results. Enjoy!

Nutrients per serving (1 ball):

Calories: 84, Total Fats: 5 g, Saturated Fat: 1 g, Trans Fat: 0 g, Cholesterol: 3 mg, Sodium: 28 mg, Total Carbohydrates: 8 g, Dietary Fiber: 1 g, Sugars: 6 g, Protein: 4 g, Iron: 0 mg

 February 13 , 2012   Daylight 11 hours, 30 minutes, 15 seconds   Current Temp.  -16ºF

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Microwave Popcorn

This is really more of a confession than a recipe.
About 12 years ago I did a principal internship at a local middle school (my husband fondly calls it the year from hell).  I spent the year doing a lot of bus duty and discipline.  You know, middle school kids are a bundle of hormones and not always pleasant to be around, esp. the students in the office because they made a silly middle school choice.  One of the people I worked closely with was our school safety officer, Mr. J.  Most days Mr. J would bring a student into my office for one thing or another.  We did morning breakfast duty together, lunch duty together and he was usually a part of bus duty in the morning and the afternoon.  We became good friends and since he was a young single guy, he often hung out with my family (I did have 4 boys at home), had dinner with us and watched football on Sunday afternoons.
Well, Mr. J's birthday was coming up and we needed to plan something very special for him, he worked so hard you know.  The lunch supervisor and I decided to fill the cab of his little pick-up with popcorn.  We spent days after work popping corn in the microwave (no fat to stain the seats).  Finally the big day arrived and we snuck out to the parking lot and filled the cab with the popcorn, stuffing the last bit through a crack in the driver's side window.
At lunch, I told him the assistant principal wanted him to go to the city park.  One of our finest was spotted skipping school and Mr. J needed to go reign him in.  Mr. J left in a hurry to go retrieve the offending student.  He came huffing back into the lunch room and announced, "Someone has filled my truck up with popcorn!"
We looked as innocent as possible (it even worked).  He asked me who did such a thing?  I innocently answered, "Who has a stay at home wife that would have time for that and who sent you to your car?"
Mr. J jumped to the conclusion that it must be the assistant principal who did this to him.  He rushed into the A.P.'s office and made some comment.  The poor A.P. didn't know a thing about it.
The offending student turned out to be eating lunch in the lunchroom, Mr. J spent some time shoveling popcorn out of his truck (and had popcorn in there for months after) and we got away with a great prank.  Mr. J may still not know who really did this to him and he moved now so retaliation is not an option!
Well, other than stuffing it in cars, I love to eat popcorn. I eat it when I have a webinar and often in the afternoon I have some to keep me going. I used to buy the bagged microwave stuff, but there is so much about how unhealthy it is I was beginning to feel a little guilty about my afternoon snack.  I have been seeing several pins on pinterest about popping popcorn in a brown bag it made me remember Mr. J's birthday gift!  So, I purchased a pkg. of brown paper bags, measured out 2 Tbsp. in each bag and folded the tops and taped them shut.  Now, in the afternoon or before a webinar, I pop a bag of popcorn, add a little salt or Mrs. Dash and enjoy my popcorn guilt free.

Microwave Popcorn
brown lunch bags
2 Tbsp. popcorn kernels per bag
tape, optional

Put popcorn kernels into paper bag.  Tape shut, if desired (I do this because I made a bunch and take them to work, I don't want a mess in transport).  Pop in microwave for 2-4 minutes, removing when popping slows down, 3 seconds goes by without a pop.  Remove, add salt, butter, Mrs. Dash, chili powder or other flavoring.  Enjoy

March  7 , 2012     Daylight 10 hours,  49 minutes,  47 seconds     Current Temp  20 º F

Monday, March 5, 2012

Moose Parmesan

Everyone needs an easy, go-to dish, they can get on a plate quickly and it is good enough for company.  It is a no-brainer when you are tired or nothing sounds good.  I have Moose Parmesan.  It is easy and fast, I almost always have moose cube steaks in the freezer, and the rest are freezer/pantry staples.  It includes pasta and that always makes my husband happy.  By this time of year, I'm using jarred marinara since our tomatoes are all gone and I've switched to whole wheat pasta, my husband is still not convinced.  We had this for dinner a couple of nights ago.  I was tired (and pretty grumpy) so I needed something easy and something that would make up for my grumpiness.  You can use beef, or chicken or pork, pounded thin.  I think this made up for my mood.

Moose Parmesan
4 moose cube steaks
seasoned bread crumbs (I use garlic, salt, pepper, onion powder and oregano)
1 egg, beaten
flour, for dredging
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cups marinara
8 oz. spaghetti
4 slices good mozzarella
4 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese

Dredge steaks in flour, dip in egg, dredge in seasoned bread crumbs.  Heat olive oil in skillet, add moose.  Cook until browned and cooked through on both side. Place a slice of mozzarella on each piece of moose.    Keep warm in low oven and let cheese melt.
Heat marinara sauce and cook spaghetti as directed.  Place 1/4 of the pasta on each plate, top with 1/2 cup marinara.  Place moose on top of marinara,  top with 1 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese.
Serves 4
March 3, 2012   Daylight  10 hours,  36 minutes,  16 seconds    Current Temp. -19º F

Friday, March 2, 2012


Today I am in San Francisco going to a conference.  I've been to this particular conference three or four times, it always has good information. The conference is located in one of my favorite places and the ocean just smells right.   My friend, Nancy, has come with me several times, but I am alone this trip. Nancy's uncle, Robert, used to live in San Francisco.  He was a very proper, retired, fourth grade teacher.  We would go to lunch or to dinner with him at the Cliff House, downstairs where they still used table cloths, you must have table cloths.  And Robert would order a Manhattan.
Robert passed away about a year and a half ago at the age of 92.  I won't eat at the Cliff House, but while I'm in San Francisco I'll have a Manhattan and think about Robert, his love for Sara Palin, orchids and his crisp button up shirts.

Manhattan - Robert ordered his extra sweet and straight up.
1001 Cocktails

dash angostura bitters
3 measures rye whiskey
1 measure sweet vermouth
cracked ice
cocktail cherry

Shake the liquids over cracked ice in a mixing glass and mix well.  Strain into a chilled glass and decorate with the cherry.

March 2, 2010     Daylight  10 hours,  18 minutes,  49 seconds     Current Temp  I don't know, I'm in
California, and it is a lot warmer here than in Fairbanks!