Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Blackberry Crumble

Anyone who knows me, knows I LOVE dishes.  I have dishes for almost every holiday (Easter, Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's day, Fourth of July...) And I have dishes for some months and some seasons.  I have Summer dishes, fall dishes, January dishes, February dishes, and Spring dishes.  Then I have a couple sets of china that get used once or twice a year, a 12 set of Noritake (we call the basketball dishes because my husband used them with his J.V. basketball team while I was out of town), my high school china (where I grew up, all the senior girls buy china from this traveling salesman that visits all the high school Home Ec. classes since those farm girls "just get married and move to the farm", I had to get pulled from wood shop to purchase my set and then I moved to Alaska full time for college). And I'm not even going to start listing the depression glass pieces I have. So you see, I love run-on sentences and dishes!
My depression glass is beautiful and functional.  I use it all the time.

In my defense, I did not purchase all these dishes.  My husband has purchased three of the above sets (Noritake, January, and February) and now these.  They are stamped "occupied Japan"  I had to do a little research on these.  They were exported between 1945 and 1952 while Japan was occupied by the Allies.  It is a 12 piece place settings, with a dinner plate, cup and saucer, bread plate, dessert plate, fruit bowl, soup bowl, covered soup tureen,  gravy boat and three serving plates!  It is so awesome.

Dave needed a reward, so I made these blackberry bars (really, I just needed an excuse to bake that day).  The original recipe was for blueberry bars, but I had blackberries in my freezer.  They were so good, I'll be making these on a regular basis.  Now, when anyone says I have an illness for dishes, I remind them that Dave is in on it too.


adapted from Brown Eyed Baker
For the Crumb:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 egg
For the Blackberry Filling:
4 cups fresh or frozen blackberries (I used frozen)
½ cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
Juice of one lemon


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9x13-inch baking pan.
2. Make the Crumb: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in the butter, and then the egg (the dough will be crumbly). Press half of dough into the prepared pan.
3. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently fold in the blackberries to coat evenly with the sugar mixture. Spread the blackberry mixture evenly over the crust, drizzling any excess juice in the bowl over the filling. Crumble the remaining dough evenly over the blackberry layer.
4. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the top is light golden brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container or wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

July 31, 2013   SRise 4:49 am  SSet 11:03 pm (-6min. 57 sec.)  Temp. H 81/ L 56ºF

Monday, July 29, 2013

Blueberry picking

Our berry bounty, we had 6 pickers and about 2 hours.  The round tubs on the left are gallon tubs.

We went blueberry picking over the weekend.  It was a gorgeous, sunny day.  We met some friends, went for a 4-wheeler ride, and then picked blueberries, I came home with a gallon. So the end of the story is a success, but the beginning is a major fail on my part.

First, I knew we had to leave at 9:00 to meet our friends at 10:00.  I had it all planned, lunches made, only had to change my shoes once and was in the car at 8:49!  Dave had been very grumpy all morning so I proudly announced, "See, I'm 10 minutes early."

"Early?  You are 20 minutes late.  You knew we needed to leave at 8:30, you saw the text from Kathy."

I had kind of seen the text, I saw it was about the trip and I just handed my phone to Dave.  I didn't know we had to leave at 8:30. And, we had to stop to gas up.  FAIL

Also, I went to use my camera two days before and the battery was dead.  I couldn't find the charger right away, so I figured I would find it later.  At 8:45 the morning of the trip was when I looked for it.  Couldn't find it, so no camera for the trip.  FAIL #2
My perfect picking spot.

But, we made it in plenty of time, were not even the last ones to arrive and get unloaded.  Kathy had a camera (although my plan was to have pictures of everyone else, not me), it was a very fun day with friends and I got berries.
A little wind-blown on top of the hill.
I cleaned my berries and got them in the freezer.  I hope we go again for blueberries, and in September for cranberries.  Now to start planning how to use them.

July 29, 2013   SRise 4:42 am  SSet 11:10 pm (-6min. 56 sec.)  Temp. H 79/L 55°F

Friday, July 26, 2013

German Chocolate Bars.

The first year I was dating my husband he decided to make me a birthday cake for my birthday. It was a very sweet thing to undertake, considering my favorite cake is German Chocolate (not an easy cake to make) and he had my kids underfoot while he sent me on errands to surprise me with the cake.  I guess everything went pretty well, until he got a little behind schedule.  I came home sooner than he thought so he sent me off the grocery store for "one more thing he had to have" and he frosted the hot cake.  Of course, the icing began to melt so he stuffed it all into the freezer to cool.  When I pulled into the driveway, he quickly pulled the cake from the freezer wanting it on the table when I walked through the door, only to have the cake do a back flip and land frosting-side-down on the floor.  I walked into a big chocolate and coconut mess in the middle of the kitchen!  I was surprised all right.

In other years, my husband did deliver a German Chocolate cake.  And, almost every year we relive the saga of the first birthday cake!

Come to find out, my dad's favorite cake is also German Chocolate.  We enjoyed it in June for his birthday.  I was really craving it again, but a whole cake is a lot and then I found this recipe on Pinterest from bake or break.  Wow, these are soooo good (I can't add enough oooos on the so).  I served this at family dinner and I shared a plate with the neighbors, there were none to take to work the next day.

A couple days later my dad informed me I could make those German Chocolate bars again, any time and as often as I wanted.  They were a favorite.  My neighbor's husband also said they were a big hit.  I'm not naming any names, but SOMEone ate so many I went to bed with a stomach was worth it.

German Chocolate Bars
from bake or break

  • 3 cups pecan halves
  • 1 & 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 3/4 cup cold butter, cubed
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 & 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
Preheat oven to 350°.
Arrange pecans in a single layer of a shallow baking pan. Bake 8-10 minutes or until lightly toasted. Stir halfway through baking.
Line bottom and sides of a 9"x 13" baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on two short sides. Grease foil.
Whisk together flour, confectioners' sugar, and cocoa. Add cold butter, and combine with a pastry blender* until mixture resembles coarse meal. Press mixture into bottom and about 3/4-inch up sides of prepared pan.
Bake crust for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over crust. Allow to cool on a wire rack at least 30 minutes.
Place eggs in a large mixing bowl, and beat lightly. Add brown sugar, corn syrup, and melted butter. Whisk together until smooth. Stir in coconut and pecans. Pour evenly over partially baked crust.
Bake 28-34 minutes, or until edges are golden and filling has set. Cool completely on a wire rack. Then, refrigerate for an hour.

Using foil overhang, lift bars from pan and place on a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to cut into bars.
*I did this in my food processor, it was so fast

July 26, 2013  SRise 4:31 am SSet 11:21 pm (-6 min. 51 sec.)  Temp H 77/ L 55°F
Random picture of a white spider in my garden.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Vanilla Cake with Apricots and Saving Katie's life

I saved my friend's life the other day.  We were outside waiting for our lunch and that is when it happened.  A giant spruce beetle landed on her chair.  I calmly told her to lean forward, I grabbed a pouch out of my purse, and after only about 20 seconds of hyperventilating, I brushed it off her chair.  She stepped on it.  So you see, I saved her life.

Spruce beetles are the nastiest things.  Some people say they pinch or bite and call them pincher bugs.  They come out in Fairbanks in the first warm part of the summer, usually in June and so they are also called June bugs.  The worse thing about them is they have barbs on their legs so when they fly into your hair and you hysterically try to brush them out (not me, I ALWAYS stay calm), they come out in pieces and the legs stay stuck in your hair.  Nice.

I usually don't go outside the three or four days these beetles are at their height.  But this summer has been a little unusual with the cold May, hot June and spotty July so we haven't seen lots of them yet.

A few summers ago, I was driving home and felt a tickle on my leg.  I looked down and a GIANT spruce beetle was climbing up my leg, toward the opening of the bottom of my capris.  I had to do something fast.  The next stoplight I came to, I stopped, flung the car in park (it doesn't matter the light was green), jumped out, brushed the bug off my leg, jumped around a little bit (o.k. a lot), waved at the car behind me, jumped around a little more, leaped into my car and dashed through the yellow/red light.  I was safe from the big, bad bug and I would never have to see the people in the car behind me ever again...

As I was tearfully  relating the story to my husband, THE CAR THAT WAS BEHIND ME AT THE LIGHT TURNED THE CORNER OF OUR STREET!  Were they mad because I stranded them at the red light?  Were they hunting me down?  "That's the car." I yelled over my shoulder as I headed inside.

I peeked out the living room windows to see my husband talking to the driver of the car and laughing!  It was our neighbor who lives two doors down from us.  My husband was laughing because he said, "I've never seen a white girl dance like that."  Ha Ha Ha.  My life was in danger there folks, that bug could have killed me by chewing off my knees or something.

So, after letting everyone at work know I saved Katie's life, and reliving the bug-on-my-leg-and-dancing-in-the-street story, I believe I have earned a treat.

I made these little cakes and topped them with fresh apricots.  They were delicious, they were small, and they were the perfect thing for a hero like me!

Apricot Cakes
from Bon Appetit, June 2013

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 2 apricots, halved, pitted, cut into 1/4-inch wedges
  • 2 tablespoons raw sugar

Special Equipment

  • A standard 12-cup muffin pan


  • Preheat oven to 350°. Coat muffin cups with nonstick spray. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
  • Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in another medium bowl, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg, lemon zest, and vanilla and beat until combined.
  • With mixer on low speed, add dry ingredients in 3 additions alternately with milk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Divide batter among muffin cups (cups will be only 1/3 full) and smooth tops. Top with apricot slices and sprinkle with raw sugar.
  • Bake until cakes are golden and a tester inserted into the centers comes out clean, 20–25 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack; let pan cool 5 minutes. Transfer cakes to rack and let cool completely.

July 24, 2013   Srise: 4:24 am  Sset 11:28 pm (-6min. 51 sec.)  Temp H 74/ L 57°F

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Tilapia with Cilantro/Walnut Pesto

It is that time of year in Fairbanks, it is warm (big smile), we have smoke from the surrounding forest fires (big frown), and I have to go fishing at my local grocery store (big grimace).

My freezer is empty of fish, no salmon, no halibut.  So, I go fishing at Fred's or Sam's.  I always have sticker shock when I go to purchase fish.  Holy cow, that stuff costs a lot of money!  So I go the cheap route and buy tilapia or cod, pretend it is halibut, and hope SOMEONE goes fishing and brings home some fish, there is still time...

I made this for dinner.  This pesto would be good on cardboard!  I love cilantro anyway and this pesto is so bright and fresh.  I'm sure you will love it too.

Tilapia with Cilantro/Walnut Pesto
from Fine Cooking, July 2013

  • 1-3/4 cups lightly packed fresh cilantro sprigs
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tbs. toasted chopped walnuts
  • 1 lemon, half squeezed to yield 1-1/2 Tbs. juice, half cut into wedges
  • 1 medium clove garlic
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tilapia or other firm white fish fillets (about 1 lb. total)
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
In a mini food processor or blender, combine the cilantro, 1/4 cup of the oil, the walnuts, lemon juice, garlic, 1/4 tsp. salt, a few grinds of pepper, and 3 Tbs. water. Process until mostly smooth; set aside.
Pat the fish dry and season with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper.
Heat the remaining 1 Tbs. oil and 1 Tbs. of the butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until the butter melts and its foam subsides. Cook 2 of the fillets, turning once, until browned and just cooked through, about 4 minutes total. Transfer to a platter, cover, and keep warm. Repeat with the remaining fish and 1 Tbs. butter, adjusting the heat as necessary.
Serve the fish with the pesto and lemon wedges.
This is Riley, he likes sitting in Dad's lap and leaning on his arm.  

July 17, 2013  Sunrise 4:00 am  Sunset 11:51 pm  Temp. H 72/L 55°F

Monday, July 15, 2013

Berries with Buttermilk Pastry Cream and Cornmeal Tart and a New Stove

It was a good range.  We bought it right after we moved into the house because the old one in the house caught fire a week before Thanksgiving.  We went to Sears and got what ever was in stock, that we could pick up and take home.  I had Thanksgiving to get ready for.

We didn't have it but three weeks and someone cleaned the top with an abrasive cleaner so the top got all scratched, then collected grease that just wouldn't come off.  A few years later one of the burners quit working, my dad changed it out for me.  The another burner wouldn't heat up to high.  Finally a third burner went out and when I couldn't get a pot of water to boil, Dave took me to the store.
I love my new stove!  Nice feet reflection.

During the life of that range it cooked 11 Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, countless family meals, birthday treats, hundreds of loaves of bread, thousands of cookies, and cakes and pies galore.   It made pots of spaghetti, soup, oatmeal, barbecue sauce, moose stew,  pans of bacon and hash browns.  It was a great companion as I cooked and cried as each child grew up and moved away. And while it did it's job, I'm happy to see it go because we did upgrade a bit (BIG smiley face here).

I have an electric range, not the most wonderful thing for cooking, but it is what I have.  What I am excited about is I got a convection oven with my new range!  I have wanted one for so long and now I have a whole new excuse to bake (like I ever needed an excuse).  I don't even care that it is 87° outside (keep in mind we don't have air conditioners in Fairbanks) and with the oven on, it is 97° in the kitchen.  I am loving it!

It also has one of those flat tops.  I did purchase the extra warranty, so when I drop a pot (I am a little clumsy) and the top breaks, it will be covered for replacement.  It is so cool, Dave turned it on and it actually got hot in about 5 seconds.

I needed something special for the first baking.  I decided on a berry and cream tart.  It does take several steps, but it is worth it.  The tart is fresh, light, and the perfect finish to a summer meal.  Now is the time to make this, while the berries are fresh.

Buttermilk Pastry Cream
from Food Network Magazine, July 2013
1 cup whole milk
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons buttermilk
3 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons cornstarch

Cornmeal Tart Dough
from The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook
1 cup flour
1/3 cup powdered sugar, measured then sifted
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup almond meal
1/4 cup medium-grind cornmeal
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
3 large egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 pint strawberries
2 pints raspberries
1/2 pint blueberries
2 Tbsp. raspberry jelly
2 Tbsp. apricot jelly
1/2 lemon, juiced

 Combine the milk, 1/3 cup granulated sugar and the vanilla in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Whisk 1/2 cup buttermilk, the egg yolks, cornstarch and the remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a bowl. Slowly pour the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook, whisking, until thick and bubbling, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; stir in the remaining 3 tablespoons buttermilk. Lay plastic wrap on the surface and refrigerate 45 minutes.

For the Tart
In a bowl, sift flour twice, then set aside.
In a bow of an electric mixer with a paddle, combined the powdered sugar and the butter.  Mix on medium high speed for 3-4 minutes, until mixture is pale and fluffy.  Scrape down the bowl and paddle with a rubber spatula.
With the mixer on low, add the almond meal, cornmeal, and salt mixing until combined.  Add the egg yolks and vanilla and mix.
With the mixer on low, add the four in 3-4 additions and mix just until combined.  Do not over mix.

Gather the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight before using.

Preheat oven to 325ºF.
Remove dough from the refrigerator and unwrap.  Place on floured work surface and roll out into a 13 inch circle.  This dough is not very flexible, if it cracks or breaks you can seal any cracks or tears after it is in the tart pan.

Ease the dough gently into the pan.  Don't stretch the dough or it will shrink when baked.   Gently push the dough into the groves of the tart pan and remove the overhang.  Press the top of the dough to be sure the top of the dough is straight at the top of the pan.

Blind bake the crust.  Lay a piece of parchment paper over the crust, fill with pie weights or dried beans.  Bake for 40 minutes.  Check crust, it should look lighter in color and not shiny.  Remove pie weights and parchment and bake for 6-8 minutes longer.  Don't over bake, it should be a light color.

Remove from oven and let cool completely before adding pastry cream.

Add pastry cream to tart, top with berries.

Melt 2 Tbsp. raspberry jelly and 2 Tbsp. apricot jelly, add a good squirt of fresh lemon juice.  Brush over the top of the berries.  Refrigerate for a least 1 hour before serving.

July 15, 2013   Sunrise 3:45 Sunset 11:57*  Temp. H 81/ L 61ºF

*On a sad note, today is the first day of summer where the sunrise and sunset are in the same day.  Great big sad face here.  We are losing over 6 minutes of sunlight a day.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Blueberry Buttermilk Cake with Blueberry Sauce

My husband loves a great deal.  A sale is good, free is better.  Who can argue?  Well, I can.

As Dave was getting busy with the outside of the house: painting, mowing, washing windows, etc., he noticed the edge of the driveway wasn't looking so spiffy.  We have a concrete pad to park on but there is an area about 9 feet wide and the length of our 3 car wide driveway.  We've looked into getting it covered with asphalt, but the cost is in the thousands!  Not worth it.  But Dave was not deterred in getting this area to look better.

He noticed the street sweeper was slow to our neighborhood this year.  We had a very late spring and the street sweepers were busy elsewhere.  Why is this important?  Because in the winter when we get ice, the city dumps gravel on the streets to prevent accidents (it is too cold here for that salt stuff to work).  Every street had lots of gravel that had been dumped by the city and had migrated to the corners.  Dave grabbed his wheelbarrow, his broom, and a shovel; walked to the closest corner and swept the gravel into the shovel and into the wheelbarrow.  He brought it home and began to fill in the dirt part of the driveway.  He made a couple of trips every evening, getting farther and farther away from home, until all the corners were cleared within a 6 block radius of our house.

A couple of the neighbors would stop and ask Dave if he was moonlighting for the city and if the street sweeper was out of order, but Dave just smiled and kept sweeping.  The end of the driveway does look neater, but I bet if he calculated his time, it would have been cheaper to buy a truckload of gravel and bring it home all in one evening.

So, when blueberries went on sale (one of Dave's favorites), I knew he would be happy that I bought a case and brought them home.  I'll make blueberry jam, blueberry muffins, and freeze most of them for blueberries on my oatmeal and a blueberry pie for Thanksgiving.  But first, I made this blueberry, buttermilk cake.  It was so delicious.  I had to eat two pieces the day I made it.  A sweet deal and no wheelbarrow needed.

Blueberry Buttermilk Cake with Blueberry Sauce
adapted from Food Network Magazine, July/August 2013

For the cake:
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 cups blueberries (about 1 pint)

Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a nonstick 12-cup Bundt pan. Whisk 3 cups flour, the baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.

Beat 2 sticks butter, the granulated sugar and vegetable oil in a bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, at least 5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Reduce the mixer speed to low; beat in the eggs one at a time, then beat in the vanilla. Add about one-third of the flour mixture and half of the buttermilk; beat until almost incorporated. Add another one-third of the flour mixture and the remaining buttermilk. Beat, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until just combined. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat 30 seconds. Finish incorporating the flour by hand to avoid overmixing.

Toss the blueberries with the remaining 2 tablespoons flour in a small bowl. Spoon one-third of the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Sprinkle in half of the blueberries, then top with another one-third of the batter. Scatter the remaining blueberries on top and cover with the rest of the batter; smooth the top. Bake until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour, 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool 30 minutes in the pan. Run a small sharp knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake, then invert onto the rack to cool completely.

For the sauce
2 cups blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. lemon juice

Put blueberries in a small saucepan.  Smash with a potato masher or pastry blender (or fork).  Add sugar and lemon juice, cook over medium high heat until it comes to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 5-8 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool.  It will thicken as it cools, if it becomes too thick, warm in microwave or on the stove and add a little water, stir well to combine.  Serve over cake.

July 10, 2013   Sunrise 3:37  Sunset 12:16  Temp. H 62/ L 49ºF

Monday, July 8, 2013

Adult Root Beer Floats

It has been hot in Fairbanks. It reached 94°F last Wednesday.  Now, I'm not complaining (unlike most of the town, and my husband), we are just not used to weather in the 90s.  It is also very dry and so we are experiencing lots of fires.  One little spark can set off hundreds of acres of woods, and then we breath smoke (that, I'm complaining about).  PEOPLE be careful!

So to cool off, I call upon a childhood favorite, the root beer float.  I could go into details about the summer my dad decided he could make root beer and it was so awful the flies wouldn't even drink it, but I won't.  I'll just think fondly of the drive in restaurant (we didn't get to go to because we had "Perfectly good root beer at home.") that served root beer in those frosty mugs they brought to your car.  And, if you were really lucky you got a scoop of vanilla ice cream in it.  Wow, that was heaven.

So, no home made crap treasures here ( I am referring to the root beer because home made ice cream would be just awesome in this), just store bought stuff.  Root beer, vanilla vodka, and good vanilla ice cream. Bring those hot temperatures on.

Adult Root Beer Floats
1 can/bottle root beer, (I use A&W diet because I'm all about saving calories), cold
1 shot vanilla vodka, keep the bottle in the freezer
1-2 scoops good vanilla ice cream (go for 2, you saved calories with the diet root beer)

Pour vodka in glass, top with root beer to fill glass about 2/3 full.  Carefully add ice cream, finish filling glass with root beer.  Enjoy.

July 8, 2013   Sunrise 3:31 am  Sunset 12:21 am   Temp. H 68/ L 53°F

Friday, July 5, 2013

Spicy Grilled Chicken Wings

Summer is busy.  In Fairbanks, we try to squeeze every bit of warmth and sunshine out of every activity.  This time of year is for grilling easy recipes so you can do important things like play washers, go fishing, water flowers, plan escapes for zombie attacks, ride your bike, and eat ice cream.

I have a couple of "cheater" recipes I use a lot in the summer.  These are recipes that use packaged spice mixes, bottled sauces, and/or canned starters.  If you are a food snob, stop reading and move on, but for those of us who usually make our own but depend on some cheats once in a while keep reading.

I've made these chicken wings for years.  When I get a cookbook, I always date the recipe the first time I use it, then list any changes I make to it and how it turns out.  A running record of how I've changed or used the recipe.  The date on this one was 2010.  My brother in law asked for the recipe last weekend when I made them and I just laughed at him.  After the barbecue sauce stand-off he knows I'll just laugh.  These are a great starter or a good snack for an evening of drinks and sunshine on the deck. One batch is never enough.

Spicy Grilled Chicken Wings
adapted from Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade Grilling

2 pkg. Hot taco seasoning (sometimes I use my own and add more cayenne)
3 Tbsp. canola oil
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 tsp. tabasco
4 lbs. chicken wings or party dummets, thawed if frozen
1 cup ranch salad dressing
1 tsp. Tabasco
Celery sticks

In a large bowl combine taco seasoning, canola oil, red wine vinegar and the 2 tsps. Tabasco.  Add chicken, toss to combine.  Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 hours.

For the Tabasco-ranch sauce, in a small bowl, stir to combine ranch dressing and the 1 tsp. tabasco.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Set up grill fro direct cooking over medium-high heat.  Oil grate before cooking (trust me on this, oil it well).  Remove chicken from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes.  Remove chicken from marinade and discard marinade.

Grill chicken for 10-15 minutes, until cooked through and turning often.

Serve with Tabasco ranch sauce and celery sticks.

July 5, 2013   Sunrise 3:22 am  Sunset 12:29 am  Temp H 71/ L 51 ºF

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

White Water Rafting

Last Saturday we went white water rafting with Nenana Rafting Adventures down in Denali Park. It was a blast!  We've gone before, but we went on an oar raft where the guide does all the work and you just sit there and enjoy the scenery.  This time we went on an oar raft and worked our way down the canyon.  The four hour trip was amazing.

The drive is beautiful.  We got stopped for road construction once and had a lead car through the part of the road that was close to one of the forest fires.  Dave says we have three seasons: winter, break-up, and fire season.  The last couple of years have been right on.  The smoke thinned out by the time we got to Denali park but you could see a haze over the mountains.
Fire damage along the highway.

We went to Nenana Raft Adventures, had our safety talk and got suited up in dry suits.  Kinda like putting a large balloon on.  On the bus to the launch point and off we went.  It is a four hour trip over some rapids and some calm areas.  The scenery is beautiful and it was a good reminder why I am so lucky to live here.
The wild group we went rafting with.  So much fun!

That is me (top picture) on the left in the back wearing the blue helmet, my husband is on the right in the blue helmet.  The two in the back are the guides, they were awesome.  The other four are people my husband works with.  The two on my side are on-air talent (that means DJs).  The crew at Nenana Rafting Adventures was so fun, professional, helpful, and fun (did I already say that?).  I can't wait for our next trip down.

July 3, 2013     Sunrise 3:14 am  Sunset 12:31 am  Current temp H 72/ L 52°F