Thursday, February 28, 2013

Strawberry Cobbler

Oh, the lure of fresh strawberries.  They are in the grocery, they smell so delicious, but if you bring them home and eat them, they taste like nothing.  I have learned, over years and years of buying tasteless strawberries, to smell them and move on.  Then I buy frozen strawberries and make something.  I don't like frozen strawberries to just eat, they need to be cooked.  But I crave the taste of strawberries.  This cobbler is the perfect thing.

The original recipe calls for fresh strawberries, so I'll have to try this again when I can get fresh strawberries locally, but the frozen strawberries are perfect.  They bake up sweet, juicy and delicious.  I just put the frozen strawberries in the batter, I didn't even have to let them thaw.  It does add to the baking time though, so watch for that.

I fixed this for dessert on Sunday, but I had not taken into account the extra baking time for the frozen berries, so my mother in law and brother in law left before it came out of the oven, which means I have to eat it all myself.

Start to finish: 10 minutes prep; 45 to 50 minutes bake
adapted from Toledo Blade
1 stick ( 1/2 cup) butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 quarts whole strawberries, capped and washed
4 ounces Neufchatel cheese, cut in small pieces
Plain Greek yogurt or vanilla ice cream for serving, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter and pour into a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. In a small bowl, mix together the egg, milk, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Pour directly over the butter in the baking dish, but do not stir.
Add the strawberries, arranging in a single layer as much as possible. Sprinkle cream cheese pieces over strawberries. Place in preheated oven and bake for 45 minutes, or until top is golden brown and edges are bubbling. (Crust rises up and around the fruit, but fruit will still peek out of top.)
Serve hot out of the oven with choice of topping, if desired.
Yield: 10 servings

February 28, 2013    Daylight 10 hours, 3 minutes, 37 seconds     Temp.  H 18/ L -6°F

Monday, February 25, 2013

Twice Baked Potatoes

I have only one oven, I wish I had two, when the kids were all home I sometimes wished I had three!  I've had to adapt and learn ways to work around one oven.  I bought a roaster, I use my microwave and I've got a couple of family favorites that I can make ahead and reheat if the oven is being used for other things.

Twice baked potatoes are one of those family favorites you can do ahead, even a day or two ahead, and reheat in the microwave or in the roaster.  They are easy and delicious, and the kids thought they were a fancy addition to a special meal.  You can choose what you put in them, bacon one time, cheddar cheese another (or both).

Our record is making 30 for dinner when the blond boy was a senior and had 23 of his closest friends over for prom dinner.  Twice baked potatoes were the perfect side, they warmed up in the roaster and made plating just a little easier.

Twice Baked Potatoes
serves 4 (amounts are  approximate, multiply depending on the number of potatoes you need)

4 russet baking potatoes
1/4 c. heavy cream, plus more if needed
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. sour cream
2 Tbsp. butter
Salt to taste
Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400˚F.

Scrub potatoes and poke with a sharp knife of fork several times each.  Bake for 1 hour until cooked completely through.

Let cool slightly until you can handle them.  Cut 1/3 off the top.  Scoop pulp from the skin, leaving about a 1/4" layer in the potato skin.  Salt the inside of the potato skins and place on a baking tray.  Place the scooped out potato in a mixing bow.  If you like very smooth potatoes, run the potato through a ricer, if you like chunky potatoes just use a mixer.  Warm the cream and butter in a microwave proof cup until butter is melted and cream is warm.  With mixer running on low, mix in cream, butter, cream cheese, and sour cream.  Turn mixer on high and mix thoroughly.  If mixture is too stiff add more cream, a tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency.  Spoon potato mixture into potato shells.  Top with Parmesan cheese (or bacon bits, cheddar cheese, green onion...).  At this point, you can wrap them carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate them until you are ready to use them.

Bake potatoes in oven at 350˚F unti heated through, or in the roaster, or in the microwave, what ever you have free.
Don't let this happen to you.  Poke your potatoes with a fork or knife several times so they don't explode!

February 25, 2013    Daylight  9 hours 43 minutes 16 seconds    Temp. H 15/ L -6˚F

Friday, February 22, 2013

Sopapilla Cheesecake with apple filling

I am a planner.  I plan meals, I plan housework, I plan activities, I plan for when I'm going to plan (I know, it may be an illness).  Now, just because I plan doesn't mean all that stuff gets done.  Ask my husband about the housework, the last month or so the only housework that gets done is by him, yes I really need to change that.  I am very good about planning meals, and snacks, and desserts.  The problem with that is I plan, I shop, I purchase and it doesn't always get made...remember the great pantry purge, I end up with a lot of ingredients that I don't use and then I forget why I bought them.  Right now I'm sitting on 6 or 7 gluten free mixes from when the DIL visited in November that I never had time to make.

And so we come to four rolls of crescent roll dough.  Yes, four.  I must have had a plan for a party or something to take to work?  I honestly don't remember why I bought them, but there they sit in my refrigerator nearing the expiration date.  Dave used one roll during the Superbowl to wrap some little weinies so I'm down to three rolls, three rolls of crescent roll dough (hahaha, Count Dracula voice from Sesame Street).

I saw this on Pinterest and knew this was something I could make, tonight, and bring to work so I don't eat it all.  I don't know why it is called Sopapilla cheesecake, it does not taste like sopapillas to me, but it is delicious, sweet and uses up two of the cans of crescent rolls I have and the can of apple pie filling sitting in the pantry.  They are so good, I might have to buy more crescent rolls and plan to make these again.  You need a little sweet this time of the year when the high temperature is still below zero!

Sopapilla Cheesecake
Recipe adapted from Chocolate Therapy

-2 cans pillsbury butter crescent rolls (buy the seamless version if you can find them!)
-2 (8oz) packages cream cheese (softened)
-1/2 cup sugar
-1 teaspoon vanilla

-1 can apple pie filling, or your choice of flavor
-1/4 cup butter (melted)
-Cinnamon and sugar (I used about 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tbs cinnamon)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If you are using a glass pan, adjust the temperature to 325 degrees. Unroll and spread one can of crescent rolls on bottom of ungreased 9x13 inch pan.  If you aren't using the seamless crescents, be sure to smooth out the seams before adding the filling. Combine softened cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in a bowl. Spread mixture over crescent rolls, top with pie filling. Unroll and spread remaining crescent rolls over mixture, being sure to press together any seams. Spread melted butter over the top and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Bake for 20-30 minutes.

My new standing computer desk by my window.  I stand so much now, I  burn extra calories!

March 22, 2013     Daylight 9 hours 22 minutes 52 sec.onds     Temp. H -9/ L-23˚F

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Ultimate Decadence Brownies

I have been a mouth out of control since the blond boy and the DIL came home at Thanksgiving.  Then we had the curly haired boy and his chick for Christmas, and the baby boy and his chick for my birthday.  After that I traveled for work, Anchorage, San Jose, and Seattle...what I'm trying to say is I wore jeans today and I look like 5lbs. of sausage stuffed in a 2lb. casing (I know, not a real attractive picture).

So it is time to get things under control.  And what do I do to cement my self control and get things moving in the right direction?  I bake...

I had to.  Terry at work put together my new standing computer desk (it is so cool, now instead of sitting all day I stand while I work on the computer and it is so comfortable!), and Bill and Kevin fixed the problem with my computer not talking to the copy machine.  I owed it to them, it was only the right thing to do.

You see my dilema?  I work with so many different people and most of them are so kind and helpful, I want to do something kind back.  So I bake.  We all know the picky eater husband of mine won't eat sweets so I eat them, and take them to work.

If someone has done a favor for you, or put together a desk, or got you out of a computer jam, this is the perfect thing to make as a thank-you.  These are rich, chocolaty, and with the ribbon of cream cheese, the name: The Ultimate Decadence.  I figure I can afford to eat one (or two) of these since I am standing at my computer all day now!

The Ultimate Decadence
The Bun on the Run Cookbook, 2011

For Brownies:
8 oz. baking chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 c. butter
6 eggs
3 c. sugar
1 2/3 c. flour
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 c. chopped walnuts

For Cream Cheese ribbon:
8 oz. cream cheese
1/3 c. butter
1/3 c. sugar
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond extract (optional)

Make Brownies:

Butter a 9X13 pan, line the bottom and short sides with parchment paper, butter the parchment.  Pre heat oven to 325˚F.

Melt in a double boiler, or microwave, until chocolate and butter are just melted, stir well, let cool.  Beat eggs and sugar for 3 minutes, until fluffy and light colored.  Turn mixer speed to low and add the chocolate mixture.  Add flour, mixing thoroughly, then vanilla, mixing thoroughly, them walnuts.  Spread half the batter in the prepared pan.

Make Cream Cheese:
Mix cream cheese, butter and sugar until thoroughly combined.  Add the egg, vanilla, and almond extract (if using), mix well.

Carefully spread cream cheese mixture over chocolate mixture in pan.  Cover with second half of brownie mixture.  Bake on center rack of oven until the cake rises up, cracks and moist crumbs adhere to a toothpick.  Remove immediately from oven, do not over bake (be really careful about this, I was reading, heard the timer, but waited until the end of the chapter before I got the brownies out of the oven and they got a little dry) .

February 20, 2013     Daylight 9 hours, 9 minutes, 15 seconds     Temp:  H -4/ L -18˚F

Monday, February 18, 2013

Fried Dill Pickles

You know the way to a man's heart is through his stomach.  That is true for my husband too, but unfortunately for me, he is the savory kind of guy, and very picky to boot (he did marry me after all).  I love to bake, I have a sweet tooth and if you  look at past posts you know the sweet stuff I love to eat.  Dave, not so much.  He wants meat, pasta, and for a snack, something salty.

I was very pleased with myself when I found this recipe for deep fried dill pickles.  Dave LOVES dill pickles, he even adds them to a tossed salad if he is making one.  I had planned on making these for him on Valentine's Day, as a little appetizer before the steaks he was grilling, but three glasses of champagne got in the way of that, so I made them for him over the weekend.

These are delicious (even for the sweet pickle lover in me!).  They are the perfect little snack for a gathering, or for watching season 3 of Downton Abby.  I know I'll be making these often.  We loved them.  I put the oil in the freezer and labeled it with what I cooked in it so the next time I fry fish or chicken it doesn't end up taking like dill pickles!

Try this for the pickle lover in your life.  It is a tasty treat.

Fried Dill Pickles
adapted from Food Network Magazine, June 2012

For the Sauce:

1/4 cu. mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. horseradish
2 tsp. ketchup
1/4 tsp. Cajun seasoning

For the Pickles:

Peanut oil for frying
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 3/4 tsp. cajun seasoning
1/2 tsp. italian seasoning
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 c. water
kosher salt
2 c. slicked dill pickles, drained

1. Make the sauce: mix mayo, horseradish, ketchup and cajun seasoning in a bowl; set aside.

2. Fry pickles: Heat 1 inch peanut oil in a pot over medium high heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 375˚F.  Spread the pickles on paper towels and pat dry.  Whisk the flour, cajun seasoning, italian seasoning, cayenne pepper, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 cup water in a large bowl until smooth.  Add half of the pickles to the batter and toss to coat.  Remove from the batter using a slotted spoon, letting the excess drip off, and add to the oil one at a time.  Fry until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes; remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.  Return the oil to 375˚F and repeat with the remaining pickles and batter.  Serve immediately with the prepared sauce.

February 18, 2013     Daylight 8 hours, 55 minutes, 37 seconds     Temp: H -9/ L -24˚F

Monday, February 11, 2013

Pear Upside-Down Cake

O.k.  Let's see a show of hands.  How many of you watch Downton Abby?  Wow!  So many?  I didn't discover D.A. until this year.  My husband and I are watching from the beginning thanks to my friend, Michelle.  We are half way through season 2 right now, so don't tell me what is happening in season 3.

We were so into the series that Dave wanted to watch ahead while I was traveling for work.  Being the kind, considerate wife that I am I told him to go ahead, watch without me...and then I hid the DVDs (Yep, I'm kind like that).

Well, I did feel guilty before I left and got them out of the hiding place, but he, being the truly kind person he is, waited for me.  We will get through season 2 before I have to leave for work again.  I can't wait for Michelle to get her pre-ordered season 3 so I can borrow it!

I made this pear upside-down cake to use some of the pears from my February's fruit of the month box.  The pears are delicious, the cake is o.k.  If you need something in a hurry, this will do.  It was fast and easy.  That way I could get another episode of D.A. in before I went to bed.

Pear Upside-Down Cake
Betty Crocker

cup butter or margarine
cup packed brown sugar
large pear, thinly sliced
tablespoons chopped pecans
1 1/2
cups Original Bisquick® mix
cup packed brown sugar
cup milk or water
tablespoons vegetable oil
teaspoon vanilla
teaspoon ground cinnamon
Whipped cream, if desired
Butter melting in the oven in my favorite cast iron pan.
  • 1Heat oven to 350°F. In 9-inch round or 8-inch square pan, melt butter in oven. Sprinkle 1/4 cup brown sugar evenly over melted butter. Arrange pear slices in single layer on sugar mixture; sprinkle with pecans.

  • 2In medium bowl, beat remaining ingredients except whipped cream with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds, scraping bowl constantly. Beat on medium speed 4 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour batter over pear slices and pecans.
  • 3Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Immediately place heatproof serving plate upside down over pan; turn plate and pan over. Leave pan over cake a few minutes so brown sugar mixture can drizzle over cake; remove pan. Cool at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm with whipped cream. Store cake loosely covered.
Cake, hot out of the oven.

Upside-down cake, look at those caramelized pears, YUM!

February 11, 2013  Daylight 8 hours, 7 minutes, 49 seconds  Temp. H 7/ L -9 °F

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Oatmeal Cookie Bars with Fudge Filling

I want you all to know that God does answer prayers.  Just the other day I was praying, "Dear God, if you really won't make me skinny make everyone around me fat so I look better." (I know, I'm kind like that)
Well, he answered that prayer with this recipe.  Not only is it oh, so delicious, it is easy to make and with oatmeal in it, you can pass it off as health food.

Me, "No really, it is oatmeal, it will lower your cholesterol."
Them, "I don't know, I really have been trying to be good and lose some weight."
Me, "The oatmeal has filling fiber and the chocolate has anitoxidants.  It is true health food."
Them, "Well, o.k. maybe just one."
And then I have them, you can't eat one and soon, their jeans will be as tight as mine...Not a pretty picture.
I plan on making this at least once a week.

BUT, I'm sure YOU can afford a few extra calories, and it is made with oatmeal and chocolate does have antioxidants - really these are good for you....

Oatmeal Cookie Bars with Fudge Filling
adapted from Love, Life, Lavins

Oatmeal Cookie Layers
1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup milk
2.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
3 cups oatmeal

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mix flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.  Set aside.
In your stand mixer or with electric beaters, mix butter and sugar until light.  Add eggs, one at a time, add vanilla and milk.  Add flour mixture and oatmeal.

Fudge filling
In a medium saucepan, over medium heat melt together:
1 can Eagle's brand sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup butter
1 (12 oz) bag semi sweet chocolate chips

To Assemble
Butter a 9X13 pan, line with parchment paper and butter the parchment paper.  Evenly spread 2/3 of the oatmeal cookie dough in the bottom of the pan.  Top cookie dough with chocolate mixture. Drop by crumbling the last 1/3 of the cookie dough over the top, the cookie dough will be very sticky and you will have chocolate showing.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  If top begins to brown too quickly, cover with aluminum foil for the last 10 minutes.  Cool completely, or the chocolate is a mess.  Remove bars from pan by lifting the parchment paper out of the pan.  Cut into squares.

February 5, 2013     Daylight 7 hours, 25 minutes, 56 seconds   Temp. H -9/ L -17 °F
Riley peeking over the arm of the sofa and Lilly waiting for a treat.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Chocolate Mint Martini

Red Carpet Peppermint Mocha Martini
Photo courtesy of Daydreamer Desserts

I was in Anchorage last weekend for a conference.  There were several people there from my school district and a group of us focused on the same topics.  It was a good conference, it was a balmy 5 above in Anchorage while it was -45 in Fairbanks, and Anchorage has some wonderful restaurants.
I had a lovely dinner with a group at Ginger.  The food was wonderful, the company was so much fun and it was a wonderful beginning to a busy weekend.  Saturday night I had dinner with my sister and brother in-law and my niece and her boyfriend.  We ate at Simon and Seafort's, another wonderful meal, good company and way too many calories!
But the real story here, is all day Saturday.  It was traumatic...

When I go to a conference, I always pack the same things, black pants, a black and white blouse and a black jacket to go over.  That way if you are hot, the jacket comes off; cold, the jacket goes on.  The pants are wash and wear so they can be rinsed in the sink when I spill coffee all over myself.  Any conference more than a day just builds on that basic outfit.  Black tights and black shoes complete the outfit.  Easy, fast, and I don't have to think when I pack.

I flew down on Friday so I packed Thursday night.  All was well, Friday keynote, dinner, back to the hotel to bed.  Up Saturday, exercised, dressed and breakfast before the session started at 9:00. And I was in my seat, at a table of 8 others from my work, just as the speaker started and I looked down...


How did that happen?  I live in a dark hole and when I packed they looked black, when I got dressed in my hotel before the sun rose, they looked black, but now, in the bright light of the conference room, it was so obvious they were blue.  I pulled the tablecloth over my pants and started to sweat.  How was I going to make it through the day with a black jacket, black shoes and blue pants?  I couldn't think.  One of the women at the table asked if I was o.k. (I was looking a little sick) and I blurted that my pants were blue and I couldn't concentrate (so much for covering them with the table cloth if I was just going to tell everyone about it).

I couldn't think, I could hardy breathe.  Everyone at the table was so kind and told me not to worry, the lighting was bad, it didn't look that bad, even the military wore black and blue with their dress uniforms; nothing worked and I hardly heard what the presenter had to say.  And to help things out, just when I did start to forget and really listen to the speaker, someone would remind me I had on blue pants!  I even texted my husband and he told me to go to the mall at lunch and buy black pants...he gave me permission to go shopping!

Oh, the trauma of it all.  SOMEhow I made it through the day, got back to my hotel and changed into some jeans.  I wore jeans the next day too.  When I got home on Sunday evening, I had to drink.  The whole blue pants thing was more than I could handle.  Just for grins, my friend, Greg, sent me a piece of blue paper through the mail....I use the term "friend" loosely.

I'm packing tonight for a conference next week in California.  I will be packing with all the lights on and I'll take my pants downstairs to the kitchen, which has the brightest light, to be sure the pants are black.  I don't think I could survive this another time.

This is a good strong, delicious drink.  A couple of these and you will forget what color pants you are wearing, if you are still wearing pants after a couple...

Chocolate Mint Martini
from Daydreamer Desserts
3 ounces Kahlua
3 ounces espresso vodka
1 ounce peppermint schnapps
1 tablespoon Guittard cocoa powder
Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Pour ingredients into the cocktail shaker including cocoa powder, and shake for 20-30 seconds.
Strain and serve in a martini glasses.
Martini Glass Garnish
peppermint schnapps
cocoa powder
Pour a tiny bit of peppermint schnapps into a plate. Pour cocoa powder into a shallow bowl. Dip martini glass in peppermint schnapps then dip moisten rim into the cocoa powder.

February 1, 2013    Daylight 6 hours, 59 minutes, 52 seconds   Temp. H 1/ L -2  °F