Friday, August 31, 2012

Peach Cobbler

I love warm fruit desserts this time of year.  The fruit is fresh and at it's peak of flavor and baking it warms the house since we are getting cool weather now.  Other than one bad experience with having peaches for dinner, peaches are one of my favorite fruits to bake.

We were invited to a friend's house for dinner and I offered to bring dessert.  I made this peach cobbler, took it out of the oven as we left the house for dinner so it would still be warm when we were ready to eat it.  The topping is a crumbly, scone-like topping and it is so good with a dollop of ice cream melting over it.  I took these pictures right out of the oven and then what was left after dinner.  While my husband and friends are used to me taking pictures of our food, I wasn't sure about at a dinner party.

I will say, I work one of the ladies who went to the dinner.  We were in a meeting and she started the meeting with telling me, again, how much she loved the cobbler (her words were, "It was perfection" not to brag but it was good and it made me feel good for her to say that).  I guess it was a hit.

Peach Cobbler
fruit filling:
6 lbs. peaches, peeled and sliced
1/3-1/2 cup sugar, depending on peaches and your taste
 cobbler topping:
adapted from The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook
2 c all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
3Tbsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
6 Tbsp. cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3/4 c. heavy cream

Pre heat oven to 350ºF.  Butter 9 inch deep dish pie plate.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl.  Drop in the butter and, working quickly, cut it in with a pastry blender.  You should have various-sized pieces of butter, from sandy patches to pea-sized chunks, and some larger bits as well.

Pour the cream over the flour mixture and toss together with a rubber spatula, until you have a soft dough; it is better o have a few dry patches than a tough dough.  The dough will be soft and sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap or wax paper and cover with another sheet.  Using a rolling pin, gently roll the dough into a 9 inch round.  Place the dough on a baking sheet, still covered, and refrigerate while you make the filling.

Combine peach slices with the sugar, toss to mix.  Pour into prepared pan and press fruit down.

Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and gently place on the fruit filling.  Cut a decorative vent in the middle.

Bake for 60-70 minutes until the top is golden and puffed and the fruit is bubbling with juices.  Cool at least 30 minutes before serving.

August 31, 2012     Daylight 14 hours, 40 minutes, 9 sec.     Temp. 58ºF

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Banana Bread and putting up wood for winter

Putting up wood for the winter is a big job.  Dave spends a lot of time cutting wood, bucking it up, splitting it, and then stacking it so it can dry.  We use about 6 cords of wood every winter in the new wood stove.  Because it is more efficient it saves us about 2 cords of wood a winter.
A cord of wood is 4 feet high, 4 feet deep, and 8 feet long.  We have about 3 cords here, stacked 6 feet high.

This year Dave had some wood delivered.  It came in 8 foot lengths.  Dave had to buck it up, split it and stack it (notice I said Dave, I didn't help).  It is a huge job, and he'll be sore for the rest of the week, so will my brother in law, back door neighbor and oldest son since they all helped.
Sunday morning's project, stacking this split wood.
They got it all cut into lengths, some of it stacked and all of it split between Friday afternoon and all day Saturday.  Sunday Dave spent the day stacking this pile.  It was cold and rainy, so not very fun work.
I thought a warm treat was in store for him (and I had a pile of bananas that were very ripe) so I made banana bread.
Dave next to the wood pile.  It is about 6 feet high and 42 feet long.  Dave looks thrilled to be doing this in the rain.

Dave was anxious to get this wood stacked.  He wants to leave for moose camp next weekend and the house rule is we have to have more wood at the house than he has at camp.  I think the house is a couple cords short.

Banana Bread
adapted from Baking Boot Camp

1/2 cup walnuts
2 c. all-purpose four
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. honey
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. grated orange rind
3 very ripe bananas, peeled and lightly mashed
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla

2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. oat bran
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Grease and flour a 9 inch loaf pan.  Toast the nuts in a skillet over high heat, stirring frequently, until the nuts give off a good aroma and are just starting to brown.  Immediately transfer the nuts to a a bowl and cool completely.  Chop the nuts coarsely.

Sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder, add cooled, chopped nuts.  Ina another bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Add the honey, grated orange rind and bananas and mix until well combined.  Add the eggs, one at a time, to the banana mixture, beating well after each addition.  Add the vanilla and mix until blended.  Add the dry ingredients to the banana mixture all at once.  Stir until they are just blended into the batter. pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Mix topping ingredient.  Sprinkle topping over top of banana mixture.

Bake for 65-70 minutes, or until the bread begins to shrink from the edge of the pan and the center of the loaf springs back when lightly pressed.  Remove the bread from the oven and let it rest for 10-15 minutes, then ease the bread out of the the pan and continue cooling on a rack.

August 29, 2012     Daylight  14 hours, 53 minutes, 27 seconds     Temp.  53ºF

Monday, August 27, 2012

Salmon Cakes

While salmon hot off the grill, is my favorite way to eat it, I also really enjoy salmon cakes.  These are like the meatloaf of Fairbanks, everyone has their own way of doing it and it is a little different every time, depending on your mood and what you have handy.

I keep mine very simple so the flavor of the salmon shines through.  I eat these cold, on a big bed of lettuce for lunch or warmed up and on a toasted bun with some tarter sauce for a heartier spread.  I use what ever salmon is left over from dinner to make salmon cakes, then freeze them for lunches.  Sometime I make extra salmon when we are grilling just so I have these ready to grab from the freezer in the mornings.

Salmon Cakes
I tried hard to keep track of what I did when I made these.  Remember, like meatloaf, it doesn't have to be exactly the same every time.
1 cup cooked salmon,  broken into small pieces (you can use a 7 oz can of salmon and adjust as needed)
1/4 cup finely chopped onions
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1 c. breadcrumbs
2 egg whites

Heat oven to 350ºF.  Place cookie sheet in oven to heat.
Saute onions until soft.  Add onions, mustard, breadcrumbs and egg whites to salmon.  Mix well.  Using a 1/2 cup or an ice-cream scoop, scoop out salmon mixture and form into patties. Remove cookie sheet from oven, spray with non-stick spray. Place patties on cookie sheet and place in oven.  Bake for 10 minutes, turn patties over and bake 5 more minutes.

August 27, 2012     Daylight  15 hours, 7 minutes, 8 seconds     Temp. 53ºF

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Salmon on the grill

To say I eat a lot of salmon is an understatement.  I eat salmon one or two nights a week and then for lunch two or three days a week.  I love the stuff.

Last year, my brother-in-law went fishing down on the Kenai and brought home his limit of salmon and stored it in my freezer.  They were filleted and vacuum sealed, they were lovely.  This year a friend gave us some Copper River Reds.  They are so beautiful and delicious.  Dave filleted them and vacuum sealed them and they sit in the freezer for a winter of feasting on salmon.

Dave won't eat salmon.  Or, I should say, doesn't care for salmon.  He will eat smoked salmon but he says he ate more than his share growing up.  I am the only one at home that will eat the salmon (if you don't count the dogs and they just get the skin).  I did share some at work, but really I am hoarding the rest for myself.

I will grill a fillet and have some for dinner, then cut it into 'me serving size" portions and wrap it, freeze it and have it ready for lunch.  All I need is some salad and I top it with a piece of salmon and I am in heaven.

There are countless ways to top the salmon but my favorite is pure maple syrup and cayenne pepper.  Brush it on top and grill.  The salmon is sweet with a little kick at the end.  It is the perfect way to prepare it especially if you are going to use the salmon for another recipe like salmon patties or salmon salad for sandwiches (recipes to follow).

I know I'm very spoiled when it comes to my salmon.  I know my salmon is fresh, I know it is wild and I know people down in the real world pay big bucks for it and I get it for free.  If you are ever in town, stop by, I'll have Dave throw a fillet on the grill and we'll have a delicious dinner.

Salmon on the Grill
1 salmon fillet
1/4 cup maple syrup (the real stuff)
1/4 tsp. cayenne

Preheat grill and turn one side off.  Rinse salmon and pat dry with paper towels.  Mix syrup and cayenne pepper.  Place salmon on "off" side of grill, brush with syrup mixture.  Close lid of grill and let salmon cook for about 7 minutes.  Baste with syrup mixture a second time.  Close lid and grill another 7 minutes, or until fish is cooked through.

August 21, 2012     Daylight 15 hours, 47 minutes, 53 seconds     Current Temp. 61ºF

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Nutella Meringue

It is amazing how good you feel after you've been sick!  I am not a sick person by nature, but last week I was thrown for a loop, or thrown loopy.  I got vertigo and the world spun around and around for about a week. (Dave says he has always known I was a little dizzy, now there is a medical diagnosis to go along with it)

Well, the spinning is gone, I'm back on my feet and to celebrate, I drank champagne and made Nutella Meringues.  You just can't get any better than that.  

I have decided that these are true health food.  Meringues are basically egg whites and a little sweetener.  Egg whites are good protein.  Nutella states in the advertising that is a healthy...and I believe everything I hear in commercials so protein and a healthy chocolate/hazelnut addition.  How can you go wrong?  If nothing else, when I eat these crispy, chewy meringues I am happier and that is good for anyone's health.

Nutella Meringues
from Cream Puffs in Venice
Yields 15 to 20 meringues (depends on how big you make them)
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
a pinch of cream of tartar
a pinch of salt
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon, granulated sugar
1/4 cup Nutella
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Make sure you have one oven rack in the bottom third of your oven and one in the upper third of your oven.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Set up a double boiler (a pot with another pot on top or a heat-proof bowl on top) and put the Nutella in the top of the double boiler. Warm the Nutella through and then set aside while you make the meringue. (You could warm the Nutella in a microwave but I don’t own one so you’re on your own if you do use one.) Let the Nutella cool as you make the meringue.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, place the egg whites. Beat on medium-high speed until they are completely foamy.
Add the cream of tartar and the salt and continue whipping at medium-high speed until when you lift the whisk attachment, soft peaks form. This should take a few minutes.
Once you have reached the soft peak stage, increase the speed to high and begin adding the sugar a few spoonfuls at a time (this should take a few minutes).
Once all the sugar is in, the meringue should be very thick (almost stiff) and when you left the whisk firm peaks should remain.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and drop in all the Nutella. With a rubber spatula, gently fold the Nutella into the meringue three or four times. You’re aiming for a swirled effect so don’t overmix. This will also help avoid deflating the meringue.
Using two spoons, drop the meringue onto the parchment-lined baking sheets in large dollops.
Place in the oven for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, immediately lower the heat to 200 degrees F. and rotate the trays. Bake for an hour.
After an hour, check the meringues. If they are completely dried out then turn the oven off and leave the meringues in the oven for a few hours to cool with the oven. If the meringues still look a bit “wet”, then continue baking for another 20 minutes or so. Either way, once fully baked, turn off the oven and leave the meringues in there for a few hours.
When you remove the meringues from the oven they should be completely dry and cool and will sound hollow when you tap the bottoms.
The meringues will keep in an airtight container for a week.

August 15, 2012     Daylight  16 hours, 29 minutes, 1 second   Current Temp: 67ºF

Monday, August 13, 2012

Cabbage Salad

This is a big bowl of happiness.  Cabbage salad with sunflower seeds and dried cranberries.  I love it, I especially love the fact that I grew the cabbage and carrots.  The dressing is a light vinaigrette made creamy with a little non-fat yogurt.

I made this for dinner after a long day in the garden, pulling spent plants, harvesting veggies, and pulling the never ending chickweed.  It was crunchy, sweet, tart and oh, so good.  We'll be eating this a lot for the next couple of weeks.

Cabbage Salad

1/4 head green cabbage, shredded
1/4 head purple cabbage, shredded
2 carrots, shredded
2 Tbsp. sugar or honey
2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/4 cup non-fat greek yogurt
handful of sunflower seeds
handful of dried, sweetened cranberries or cherries

Mix green cabbage, purple cabbage and carrots together.  Set aside.

Mix sugar or hone with vinegar, stir until sugar is dissolved, add oil and whisk.  Add yogurt and whisk until smooth.  Pour over cabbage and carrots, mix well and let sit for about 30 minutes.  Add cranberries and sunflower, mix.  Keeps several days covered in the refrigerator.


August 13, 2012     Daylight  16 hours, 42 minutes, 48 second     Current Temp: 62ºF

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Zucchini and Cheese Tart

Because I have more zucchini than I know what to do with, and because this is kinda' like a pie (for pie summer), we have a zucchini-cheese tart.  I make this a lot this time of year.  I always have the ingredients on hand and can whip one up for part of dinner or if someone stops by to visit.  It is perfect because it uses up some zucchini and in such a flavorful way, you don't mind eating zucchini (again).  Dave will even ask for this once in a while.

I totally cheat and use a box pie crust, so I always have one handy this time of year and the zucchini comes from my garden. The tart looks a little different each time depending on the green or yellow zucchini and if I have any ripe tomatoes in the greenhouse.  I have also added thin slices of onion to change it up a little.  The spreadable cheese can change depending on what you have or what you like.  I usually use a garlic herb blend, but I have made it with plain cream cheese and just added some garlic powder and chopped basil from the greenhouse.

On a sunny day, we take our tart and a good glass of wine and enjoy it on the deck.  If it is rainy, Dave will make a fire and we'll be toasty warm in the living room, enjoying the joy of our harvest.

Zucchini and Cheese Tart

2-3 medium green zucchini, sliced thinly
2-3 medium yellow summer squash, sliced thinly
1/2 container spreadable cheese (like Boursin), garlic herb flavor
1 crust pastry
1 Tbsp. milk or cream

Roll pastry into a 12-14 inch circle. Place pastry on large sheet pan with parchment paper.  Spread cheese on pastry except for about 2" boarder.  Place zucchini, summer squash, and tomatoes in overlapping circles, covering the cheese.  Fold edge of pastry over the edge of the vegetables.  Brush with milk, bake at 450º F for 15-20 minutes until pastry is golden brown and vegetables are soft.  Cool slightly.  Cut into 8 pieces.  Serve warm or room temperature.

Use thinly sliced tomatoes and add to the tart.  Mine aren't ripe yet, so no tomatoes here.

As soon as you pull the tart from the oven, add about 1 Tbsp. more blue cheese, it gives it a bright, strong blue cheese flavor.
August 8, 2012     Daylight  17 hours,  17 minutes, 24 sec.     Current Temp.   55ºF

Friday, August 3, 2012

Moose Sausage Stuffed Zucchini

Yes, zucchini again.  That's what my husband is saying right about not.  I had these two gianormus (yes, that is a real word) zucchinis.  I cut one in half, shredded it and used it for the chocolate zucchini cake and the other half I stuffed for dinner.

I have a friend who stuffs her zucchini with rice, dried apricots, pistachios and herbs, it is wonderful.  But a meal without meat is not a meal, according to my husband.  So I stuff mine with moose sausage, cheese and marinara sauce.  You can stuff your zucchini with anything you want (and if you leave your car unlocked, I'll unload about 17 lbs. of overgrown zucchini).

Sausage Stuffed Zucchini
1 large zucchini, cut in half length-wise and seeds scraped out
1 lb. moose Italian spiced sausage, or Jimmy Dean or your favorite sausage
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, divided
1-2 cups good marinara sauce, depending on preference

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Rinse zucchini, cut in half and scrape out seeds and some pulp to make a good sized well.  Place on foil covered baking sheet.  Season with salt and pepper.

Brown sausage in skillet.  Cook and chop into medium sized crumbles.  Add parmesan, 1/2 cup mozzarella, and up to 2 cups of sauce, stir to combine.

Mound sausage mixture into well in zucchini half.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Top with 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese, return to oven until cheese is melted and bubbly, about 3-4 minutes.

Some people chop the center of the zucchini and mix it in with the filling.  I don't because I don't like the texture of the seed center.

If your zucchini really rocks, you can cut a thin slice off the bottom to make it more stable.

August 3, 2012     Daylight  17 hours,  52 minutes  8 sec.     Current Temp. 61ºF

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Zucchini Chocolate Cake

Around the first of August, everyone is very careful to lock their cars in Fairbanks.  No, we don't have a rash of break-ins or car jackings, we have zucchini.  The days are long, the zucchini grows, and grows, and grows.  If you are careful and cut your zucchini when they are small, you are usually o.k., but skip one day (or week, in my case), and you have monster zucchinis that overtake your garden.

I do love zucchini, I make zucchini tarts, shred it and put it in muffins, ribbon it into salads, slice it for stir fry, and bread it with panko and Parmesan cheese and bake it.  I'm sure I'll share all these recipes with you and then some.  But, when one goes wild and it is just too big to slice and cook, I'll shred it and make chocolate zucchini cake.  I am trying to increase my veggie intake.
Zucchini plants in the first planter.  See the small yellow summer squash hanging on the side?

I got this recipe from my grandma McFadden.  It is an easy one, where you mix a few things together, top with chocolate chips and bake.  It doesn't need frosting with the chocolate chips on top and it has a deep chocolate flavor thanks to the cocoa powder.  I'll freeze extra shredded zucchini so I can make this all winter.  And considering the fact that all my neighbors know to lock their cars, I'll have plenty to freeze.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake
from Grandma McFadden

For Cake:
1/2 c. butter, melted
1/2 c. oil
1 3/4 c. granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. yogurt
2 1/2 c. flour
4 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 cup zucchini, grated

Top with:
1/3 cup granulated sugar
6 oz. chocolate chips
1/2 c. nuts

Preheat oven to 325ºF.
Mix all cake ingredients  together. Pour into prepared 13x9"pan.  Top with sugar, chocolate chips, and nuts.  Bake for 35-40 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Random picture of the Oregon boys and their chicks in California.
August 1, 2012     Daylight  18 hours,  6 minutes, 3 seconds     Current Temp.   66º F