Monday, September 30, 2013

Fresh Pear and Walnut Muffins

So my husband wants me to go camping with him next weekend.  It is in the mid 30's during the day and well below freezing at night.  I did go camping with him in October last year (remember I was the horseshoe champion last winter), so I feel justified in saying no this year.  

But it did get us talking about past camping experiences, and growing up camping with my family, we had a lot of stories.  My family used to go camping with 6 kids, my mom and dad and sometimes, my grandma.  We all slept in a camper on the back of Dad's pickup.  The kids all rode in the back, something not allowed in this day and age.  Because there were so many of us, one of us got to sleep in the truck cab and have the whole bench seat to themselves, often times it was me.  

One night, we were tucking into a parking spot at a remote lake.  We had finished dinner, played cards and all gotten tucked into bed.  I had the truck cab and was sound asleep.  I am usually a very good sleeper.  In the middle of the night the whole camper was woken by a noisy bear trying to get into the garbage cans.  My family had a great view since it never gets dark in the summer and they watched as the bear struggled with the cans.  They were all in the back of the camper, I was in the truck cab.  My parents were really worried that I would wake up, get scared about the bear not 3 feet from our camper, and try to leave the cab and run into the camper, giving the bear something to chase.  That bear was really noisy.

But they didn't need to fear, I was a sound sleeper and slept through the whole event.  In the morning they all talked about the bear, I was disappointed that I didn't get to see it, and we had new rules about not leaving the cab in the middle of the night - no matter what.

Well, Fall is here and it is too darn cold to go camping.  I'll stay home with the dogs that can't travel, stay warm and far from any bears trying to get their last meals before they hibernate.  I'll be eating these pear and walnut muffins with my coffee.  It is time to start Muffin Mondays at work again, time to get baking.

Pear and Walnut Muffins
adapted from Perfect Muffins

2 cups self-rising flour
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup pear or apple juice
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 large pear, peeled and finely chopped

1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raw sugar

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Line 12 muffin cups with paper cups.

In a large mixing bowl sift together flour and nutmeg.  Stir in brown sugar and 1/2 cup walnuts.  Make a well in the center.

In a small mixing bowl beat eggs, add juice and oil.  Add all at once to the flour mixture together with the chopped pear and stir until just moistened, batter will be lumpy.  Spoon into prepared muffin cups.
Sprinkle tops with walnuts and raw sugar.

Bake until muffins are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean, 15-20 minutes.  Remove the muffins from the oven and cool them in the pan for 5 minutes.  Remove them from pan and serve or cool on wire rack.

September 30, 2013   Daylight 11 hrs. 22 min. 8 sec.   Temp. H 36/ L 27°F

Friday, September 27, 2013

Green Bean, Blue Cheese and Bacon Salad

We were sitting down to dinner.  Dave was home and texting his brother who was alone in moose camp.  I jumped up and got my phone and set it on the table.  Now, first of all, we have a "no phones at the table" rule.  So for me to bring my phone to the table is unheard of.

"What did you do that for?" Dave asked.
"I think one of the boys is going to call me."  I answered.

We started dinner, and not three bites into it, my phone rang.  It was the baby boy!  I was right!  
"What's up?  Why did you call?"  I innocently asked.
Dave suddenly looked guilty.
"Um, just thinking of you Mommylou."
"Did Dave text you to call me?"I asked.
"Maybe something like that." he said.

So, because I jumped up for my phone, Dave texted the baby boy and told him to call.  I thought Dave was still texting his brother.  We all had a good laugh, a nice conversation, and went back to dinner.

That night about bedtime, the curly haired boy called me.  "Did Dave tell you to call?"  I accused him.
"No, I was just thinking about you and called." he replied. (He is very good about calling).

So I got to talk to two of my boys today.

It was a good day.

Green Bean, Blue Cheese and Bacon Salad
adapted from Fine Cooking, Oct/Nov 13

1/2 lb. haricot verts, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 slices bacon
1 Tbsp. Champagne vinegar
1/4 tsp. Dijon mustard
freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 1/4 oz. crumbled blue cheese
6 large bib lettuce leaves

Bring a 4 quart pot of salted water to a boil.  Boil the haricot verts until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes.  Drain in a colander and cool under cold running water; pat dry.

Fry bacon until crisp.  Crumble and drain on paper towel.

Whisk the vinegar, mustard, and pinch each of slat and pepper in a large bowl.  Whisk un the oil until emulsified.  Add the haricot verts, walnuts, and blue cheese, toss gently to combine.

Arrange the lettuce leaves on a serving platter or individual salad plates and lightly season each with salt and pepper.  Divide the salad among the lettuce leaves, top with crumbled bacon and serve.

September 27, 2013   Daylight 11 hrs. 42 min. 3 sec.   Temp. H 37/ L 28°F

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Stock: Chicken and Mushroom

Mushroom stock
I've been a little stressed lately.  I am a person who needs a plan, the plan can change, but it needs to be in place.  I have been living on hold, without a plan.  I hate that (and so does anyone who is around me).

About a month ago, I was offered a new job.  It is with a new employer.  Not a big deal for many of you, but I have worked for the same employer for the last 29 years.  I was a teacher, a principal, and a program coordinator for the same school district.  And now, I was offered a job with the University of Alaska K-12 outreach program for their Alaska Teacher Placement center.  I told them what I wanted in order to move, and they offered it to me!  I will be "retiring" from the school district and moving across town to the University of Alaska. I start October 4, I am very excited.

But between the time I told them what I wanted and the time they offered it to me, I have been a nervous mess.  What do I do when I am nervous?  I cook, I bake, I make stock!
1 cup containers

The nice thing about stock, is it really takes minimal effort, and you get a lot of production.  And, because I was more than a little nervous, I made two kinds of stock; chicken and mushroom.  Having homemade, frozen stock on hand is like having a golden treasure in the freezer.  Soup takes on a whole new flavor, risotto is even more of a treat, and gravy is richer and more delicious.
3 cup containers for soup and risotto

There are a million ways to make stock, don't get hung up about having the "right" ingredients.  If you googled chicken stock you will come up with 100 million ways to make it.  Chicken, onions, salt and pepper can make a basic chicken stock.  Add carrots and celery, a little thyme and it is even better.  For mushroom stock replace the chicken with mushrooms and add a little marsala or bandy to the veggie sweat and you are in business.  So, here are the recipes I use.  Make some stock, I'll bet you never use store bought again.

Chicken Stock
3 3-5 lb. whole chickens
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 onions, roughly chopped
6 carrots, roughly chopped
6 celery ribs, roughly chopped
Big bunch of thyme
1 garlic head, unpeeled, top 1/3 cut off
2 Tbsp. salt
2 tsp. pepper
8 quarts water

In a 20 quart stockpot, over med. low heat, add olive oil, onions, carrots, and celery.  Cook until soft and fragrant, about 8-10 minutes.  Add 8 quarts of water, chickens, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for 4 hours, skimming foam as needed. Strain entire contents of pot through cheesecloth, discard solids (I save the chicken meat for the dogs, but it really is used up so you just toss).  Refrigerate overnight.  Remove fat from top of broth, discard or use for another purpose.  Place in freezer containers, leaving some headroom for expansion as it freezes.

Mushroom stock
adapted from Food and Wine Magazine

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound mushrooms, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 thyme sprig
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1/2 cup Marsala or brandy
2 quarts water

In a pot, heat the oil. Add the mushrooms, onion, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf and peppercorns and cook over high heat until the vegetables are softened, 15 minutes. Add the Marsala and cook until evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the water and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until reduced to 6 cups, 2 hours. Strain the stock, pressing down on the solids.
September 25, 2013  Daylight 11 hrs. 55 min. 18 sec.   Temp H 43/ L 28°F

Monday, September 23, 2013

Jalapeño Jelly

Dave got home from moose camp and it went something like this:

D: Honey, I'm home.

Me: Oh good, I can hardly wait to get to bed.

D: O.K., but don't you want me to shower first?

Me: I don't really care.

D: Well, I don't want to climb into bed without a shower.

Me:  O.k. but I'm going now.

D:  Don't you want to wait for me?

Me: Not really, it's better if you aren't there.

D:  Um, what are you talking about?

Me:  Sleep, I'm so tired.  I haven't had a good night sleep since you left.  What were you talking about?

And so, I win "Wife of the Year" in 5 sentences.

I got a great night's sleep.  Dave was in the house so I slept deeply.  And he was sulking, reading a book on the couch, so I got the whole bed.  It was a win-win for me.
Jalapeño peppers from my friend Katie.

To spice things up for him, I made Jalapeño Jelly.  This is a pretty sweet version so I leave the seeds and veins of the jalapeño peppers intact.  You can seed and devein the peppers to cut down on the heat, and cut down on the sugar, just check your pectin requirements.  It is delicious over cream cheese with crackers, and Donna suggested it as a dip for Coconut Shrimp.  I'll try that later this week.

Jalapeño Jelly
Ball Canning

12 oz. Jalapeño peppers (about 12 medium)
2 cups cider vinegar
6 cups sugar
2 3-oz pouches liquid pectin
green food coloring (optional)

Prepare boiling water canner.  Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready to use.

Puree  peppers in food processor with 1 cup vinegar until smooth.  Do not strain puree.

Combine puree with remaining 1 cup cider vinegar and sugar.  Bring to boil over high heat.  Boil 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add liquid pectin and boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat, add food color, if desired, skim foam.  Ladle hot jelly into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Wipe rim, Center lid on jar and apply band until fingertip tight.

Process in hot water bath for 10 minutes, once water boils.  Remove jars and cool.  Check seals after 24 hours.  If any jars are not sealed store in refrigerator.

September 23, 2013    Daylight  12 hrs., 8 min. 33 sec.   Temp H 36/ L 21°F

Friday, September 20, 2013

Nutella Hot Chocolate

It really amazes me the difference in weather in our country.  My friend, Suzanne, is in Colorado and her town is flooding.  You can read about her excitement at Front Range Fork and Cork.  My brother, in Kansas is "suffering" with 90+° weather.  The blond boy gets a cool 70° in San Diego and us, well, we get snow.

Yes, the white stuff made it's first appearance this week.  I didn't get all my yard work done, we need to put up some more wood, and the little dogs looked at me with the "You think I should go out in this stuff, what are you, crazy?"  I have to pick them up an put them outside or they hide under the hutch.  And my brother is complaining it is too hot.

So I needed something warm, comforting, and soothing.  You know, something that would help me forget that I have 9 months of this white stuff to look forward to.  What better way to drown your sorrows celebrate the first snowfall, than with Nutella hot chocolate.

This is the adult version, with whipped cream vodka.  Just leave it out for your younger set.  Since we don't have anyone under 21 at our house, it is adult beverages all the way around.  I make ours with almond milk because cow's milk is not our friend (or you don't want to be my friend after I've had cow's milk...I'm mean Dave, after Dave has had cow's milk.  Yea, that's right.).  Use what ever kind of milk you like.  My brother might want to wait a couple of weeks to drink this, but I'm already on my second cup and I'm feeling warmer with every sip.

Nutella Hot Chocolate
makes one drink
1 cup milk
1/4 cup Nutella, more to taste
pinch of salt
1 oz. whipped cream vodka
toppings of choice: marshmallows, whipped cream, etc.

In a small saucepan over med. low heat, add milk, Nutella and a pinch of salt.  Whisk until Nutella is completely dissolved into milk.  Heat until very hot but not boiling.  Remove from heat and add vodka.  Pour into cup and top with desired toppings.  Enjoy.
You can double, triple, or quadruple this recipe.

September 20, 2013   Daylight 12 hrs. 28 min. 26 sec.    Temp. H 30/ L 25°F

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Donna and I were having coffee on Saturday, as usual.  Somehow the topic of a t.v. in my bathroom came up.  Donna said I was the only person she knew who had a t.v. in their bathroom.  How could that be?  I didn't believe it so I took a poll of the tables around us.  It went something like this...

"Excuse me, do you have a t.v. in your bathroom?"  Donna is laughing and turning red, the tables around us are looking confused but all answer...the overwhelming  response, actually the only response was "No."

"Really, how do you watch the news in the morning?"  Donna is ready to climb under the table now.

Most people either had a t.v. in the next room (bedroom, living room, etc.) or they didn't watch the news in the morning.  Hmmmm....

But, apparently asking random strangers about t.v.s, bathrooms, and news programs causes discomfort to my coffee companion.  I'll have to do a better job keeping myself in check for a couple of weeks or she will start finding excuses not to meet me for coffee.

I went home and made this chocolate zucchini cake.  It is a recipe from my Grandma McFadden.  It is a moist, cocoa based cake that doesn't need frosting.  You top it with sugar, nuts and chocolate chips before you put it in the oven.  I love this cake.

Later that evening, I was cold, I ran a bath, cut a piece of cake and sat in the tub watching Food Network and enjoying my cake.  You can't do that if you don't have a t.v. in your bathroom.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake
from Grandma McFadden

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups shredded zucchini

Preheat oven to 325˚F.  Butter and flour a 9X13 baking pan.

In a mixing bowl, combine butter, vegetable oil, and sugar.  Add eggs, one at a time.  Add vanilla and buttermilk.

In a small bowl whisk together, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon.  Add to wet ingredients and mix until just combined.  Stir in shredded zucchini.

Pour into prepared pan.

Top batter with:
1/3 cup sugar
6 oz. chocolate chips
1/2 cup nuts (pecans or walnuts)

Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

September 18, 2013  Daylight 12 hours, 41 minutes, 41 seconds   Temp: H 37/ L 27˚ with snow

Monday, September 16, 2013

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Nutella Mousse

It was was about 1986, it was my birthday and my boyfriend (actually he was my fiancé at the time), took me to dinner at a Chinese restaurant.  At the end of the meal our fortune cookies came.
Mine said, "Your luck will soon change."

On the ride home this boy I was madly in love with said, "I'm getting married in two months and not to you.  And, I want the ring back."

Yep, I'd say that was a change in luck...and I'm still trying to figure out if my luck changed for the better or for the worse?

I make it a rule never to eat chines and get fortune cookies on my birthday.

We had a friend over for her birthday.  It was a big one, the kind with a 0 at the end.  We grilled steaks and opened a great bottle of wine (or two) and I made chocolate-hazelnut cake with Nutella Mousse.  It was a special way to top off the evening, no fortunes required.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Nutella Mousse
Cook like a Rock Star, Anne Burrell

For the Cake:
12 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1 1/2 cups hazelnuts, toasted
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup hazelnut paste (I couldn't find this in Fairbanks, so I ground hazelnuts into butter and used that)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 tsp. baking powder
pinch of kosher salt
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 325ºF.  Butter and flour a 9 inch square pan.

In food processor pulse the hazelnuts until coarsely chopped.  Reserve.

In a large mixing bowl, combine butter, sugar, hazelnuts paste, and vanilla.  Using an electric mixer, beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs, one at a time.

Add baking powder, salt, and cocoa, beat until combined.

Gradually add the flour, stopping the beater when it is just combined.  Fold 1 cup of chopped hazelnuts into the batter, reserving the rest for garnish.

Transfer the cake batter to the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake.

Let the cake cool for 10 minutes, remove cake from pan and let cool completely.

For the Mousse:

1 1/2 cups Nutella
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1 cup heavy cream, chilled

In a large mixing bowl, combine the Nutella and mascarpone.

In another large bowl, beat the heavy cream to soft peaks, use an electric mixer, trust me.

Add a spoonful of whipped cream to the Nutella mixture and stir until you don't see any streaks.
Using a rubber spatula, fold a third of the remaining whipped cream into the Nutella mixture.  Lift the mixture gently from underneath, bring the spatula up, turn it over and fold the mixture over as you rotate the bowl slowly.  You want to keep this fluffy and not squish all the air out of the whipped cream.  Repeat two more times with the remaining whipped cream.

To Assemble the Cakes:
Cut the cakes into 3" rounds and slice each round in half horizontally.

Pipe or spread Nutella mousse on the bottom half of the cake, where you cut it, sprinkle a few chopped hazelnuts, top with top half of cake, pipe or spread Nutella mousse on top, sprinkle with more hazelnuts.  Serve immediately.

September 16, 2013    Daylight: 12 hours, 54 minutes, 57 seconds   Temp: H 52/ L 28ºF

Friday, September 13, 2013

Lasagna two ways

The baby boy posted on Facebook that his chick tried to make soup, and then they ordered pizza.  We've all had tries in our kitchen that haven't been the best (unless you haven't then I don't want to hear about it.)

When Dave and I were first married, I made an oh, so delicious dish fishstick casserole.  Yea, really.  It seemed like it had ingredients that all five kids liked, fish sticks, tator tots, cream of something soup, cheese...I made it, served it, and we all ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that night, except Dave.  He chocked down ate two servings so I wouldn't feel bad.  That was 15 years ago and we still talk about the deliciousness of that casserole.

Well, one thing we all could agree on is lasagna.  I don't eat noodles so I make lasagna two ways, one with noodles for Dave and one with zucchini for me.  Everything else is the same, just be sure to salt and let your zucchini release some of it's water, or use a lot less tomato sauce or the zucchini lasagna is very watery.

Lasagna can be made 9million different ways.  This is how I do it and it works for my family.  Add or delete any of the ingredients to suit your family's needs.  I have found that, while my kids won't eat spinach as a side dish, they eat it up in the lasagna!  Win.
Zucchini lasagna, and noodle lasagna.  I make them at the same time.
1-2 medium zucchini, sliced on a mandolin, salted and sit for about 20 min. then rinsed and patted dry
1.5 lbs. burger (I use moose)
1 onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots grated
1 pkg. frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 cups mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
lasagna noodles, boiled about 4 minutes until soft but not cooked through
4 cups good marinara sauce

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Brown ground meat in skillet with onion, garlic, an carrot.  Drain any fat.

Spray two loaf pans with cooking spray.  Spread about 1/4 cup of sauce in each pan, top with noodles or zucchini, add a layer of meat, about 2 Tbsp. ricotta, in dabs, a layer of spinach, a layer of mozzarella, a layer of parmesan, and a layer of sauce.  Repeat with noodles or zucchini, meat etc. until ingredients are used.  Top with noodles, sauce, mozzarella, and parmesan.

Bake for 20-30 minutes until lasagna is bubbly and cheese on top is nicely browned.

September 13, 2013   Daylight 13 hrs. 14 min. 52 secs.    Temp H 61/ L 39˚F

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Rhubarb Meringue Bars

On the farm in Kansas, my mom had many different "pets" she loved.  One particular pet I missed this weekend was Hector, the goose.

Geese are very protective, especially male geese.  Hector had a harem of about 5 females, and then little babies in the spring.  Hector did not like anyone getting close to his family, and if you got within an unsafe range, Hector went after you.  He could bite, break the skin through your jeans, and the big, black bruise would last for weeks.  He also aimed for your butt, or the top of your thigh.  Maybe that was because we were always running from him and that was the area he reached.

If Hector and the ladies were in the yard and someone drove into the driveway, they would honk the horn until my mom would come out and shoo them out to the pasture.  Hector never chased my mom, maybe because she was the one who fed them?  But Hector and his harem would waddle off and company felt safe to venture up the front walk of the farmhouse and come in for coffee.

I was missing Hector this weekend because Dave was at moose camp, and I am afraid of the dark.  It gets dark now, by 9:00 it is dark, so when I go to bed, the house creaks, the monsters in the closets shuffle, and the things under the beds wiggle just so.  The house is full of noises, and I don't sleep.  It doesn't help that Friday the 13th is this week and every other commercial on t.v. is about the next best scary movie coming out, and I am not allowed to watch those.

If Hector was here, he would lie quietly in wait.  He could be very quiet, and you wouldn't even know he was close, then he would jump up with a squawk and attack..those monsters in the closet wouldn't stand a chance.

So now, without Hector, I am tired.  So I made these rhubarb bars to give me a little pick me up.  I have lots of rhubarb in my freezer, thanks to Anita, and these bars will be a regular treat all winter.

Rhubarb Meringue Bars
from Bun on the Run cookbook

1 cup butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 cups flour
1 egg white (save yolk for filling)

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Cream butter and sugar together, add flour.  Spread into greased 9X13 pan, forming a 1/2 inch lip around the edges.  Brush with a thin layer of eaten egg white to glaze.  Bake on bottom rack until golden, about 15-20 minutes.

4 whole eggs plus 1 yolk
1 3/4 cup sugar (these are very sweet, you might want to cut back on the sugar)
1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
5 cups slices rhubarb

Whisk together eggs, sugar, flour, and salt.  Stir in rhubarb.  Spread evenly over pre-baked crust.  Bake until set and the top is nicely browned about 50 minutes.  Cool completely before cutting.

September 11, 2013   Daylight 13 hrs. 28 min.s 11 sec.    Temp. H 54/ L 43˚F

Monday, September 9, 2013

Stuffed Pork Loin

I'm telling old stories, so if you've heard this one, just skip to the recipe.

My mother in law is a lovely woman.  She comes to family dinner every week, and I really try to have something that will please her.  I love my husband, and one way I show it is to be very kind to his mother.

One family dinner, we had the whole crew, about 12 of us.  I made two, very large, beef roulades.  It was flank steak, pounded thin, filled with a savory filling, rolled and roasted.  When you cut it, you got this beautiful pinwheel of deliciousness.  We ate dinner, both roulades were eaten with the family and seconds, we visited, had dessert and then everyone started to go.  My dear mother in law was leaving and she said to me, "Well, Toni, it was a good try."

A good try....

Now, I'm sure it was because the meat would have been hard for her to chew, she is elderly and wears dentures, either that or she just didn't like it.  So I try not to make beef for her when she is here.

I made a stuffed pork loin for family dinner, it is easier to chew.  I filled it with a mushroom stuffing, tied it and roasted it.  My dear MIL at seconds.

I guess it was better than a good try.

Stuffed Pork Loin

3-4 lb. pork loin
1 lb. mushrooms (I get the boxes of sliced baby bellas)
1 onion
1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs, very finely chopped or ground
2 cloves garlic
executive chef seasoning or your favorite steak seasoning

Cut pork loin: make a cut, horizontally, 1/3 down the roast until it almost cuts through, but don't cut through.  Flip it open so you have one thin end and one fat end.  Cut the fat end, horizontally, from the center out toward the edge, without cutting through, so that it is one open flat piece of meat.  You have just cut it in thirds, but kept it connected.  Pound until it is an even thickness.

Sprinkle meat with executive chef, or other seasoning, roll up and put in plastic.  Let it set at room temp. while you make the stuffing (but no more than 30 minutes or so).

Chop mushrooms fine, I do this in my food processor.  Chop onion and garlic with mushrooms.

Heat sauté pan, add some oil and sauté mushroom/onion mixture over medium heat until well cooked and somewhat dry, about 20 minutes.  Add seasoned bread crumbs.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 425˚F.

Open pork roll flat.  Spread mushroom filling within 1/2 inch of edges.  Roll up, jelly roll style, starting on the long end.  Tie with kitchen twine, every 2-3 inches to keep roll intact and tight.  Place on roasting pan.  Roast for 20-30 minutes, until meat thermometer reads 145˚ in the center part of the meat.

Remove from heat and let rest for 5-10 minutes.  Remove string and slice.

September 9, 2013     Daylight:  13 hours, 41 minutes, 30 sec.    Temp. H 63/ L 43˚F

Friday, September 6, 2013

Raspberry Lemon Drop

It is September, hunting time here in Alaska.  My husband, his brother, and which ever boys are around go to moose camp for the month of September.  My brother comes up every couple of years to go hunt with them.  It is a family tradition, they really have a good time, and we get organic, grass (and twig) fed meat.  When our kids were younger, it was a good way to fill the freezer.  But, as the kids grew and left (and my husband and brother in law got older), moose camp has morphed into something a little more relaxed and vacation like.  I think there is a lot of beer and I know the food they take for those three weeks breaks my grocery budget for the month.  I'm not complaining, they have a great boy-bonding time, and I am left home alone.

Now, don't get me wrong (I know I've said this before) I love my husband, but I really love him in October, after he has been gone for a month.  I really need my alone time, cereal for dinner, read in my pajamas all day if I want to time.  And September gives that to me in a three week lump.  I look forward to Dave being in moose camp as much as he does (maybe more!).

This year Dave is only going in on the weekends.  He is saving his vacation time to go to Costa Rica with me in February.  I've been wanting to go for years, and have planned the trip a couple of times now, just to have Dave have a reason he can't go.  This year, I told him I was going and he was welcome to come with me, but I was going - with or without him.

He decided to the expense of moose camp.  He is going in for the weekends, but my month of solitude is nonexistent this year.  I am trying to be cheerful about it, trying to stay kind, but it really is hard.  So, I just have to drink more.

Drink of the week is a raspberry lemon drop.  Fresh raspberries and real lemon juice make this special, don't use that bottled stuff.  I mix one of these as soon as I get home and start the second one when Dave gets home.  I know I can't do this every night in September (usually drink of the week is one drink a week) but I am going to do it as often as I need to so I don't get grumpy and Dave decides never to go on a vacation with me again.  Moose camp usually takes all his vacation time and I really am thankful for his sacrifice so I get some sun this winter, I don't want him to regret his decision by coming home to a grumpy wife.

Raspberry Lemon Drop
2 oz. good vodka
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
6 raspberries
2 tsp. sugar
splash of 7-up or Sprite

Muddle lemon juice, raspberries and sugar together in a shaker, add vodka and ice.  Shake until very cold.  Strain into a glass and top with a splash of 7-up.  Enjoy visiting with your husband.

September 6, 2013    Daylight  14 hrs. 1 min. 32 sec.   Temp.  H 57/ L 43°F

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Canning Tomatoes

Beautiful Romas from Dart Farms in Manley, Alaska
I have a greenhouse but I grow just enough tomatoes for us to eat.  We never have any extra for canning.  I go to the farmer's market and buy flats of tomatoes from Dart Farms.  John Dart is a farmer in Manley, Alaska and uses the natural hot springs to heat the greenhouses and water the plants.  I've never driven out there to see it all, but I should.
John's wife, Chris, worked with me at the elementary school I taught at.  She is one of those positive, energetic people you love to be around.  She is retired now and I get to visit with her at the farmer's market when I shop there.
I bought a flat of tomatoes, 11 lbs, roasted them and canned them.  I added roasted garlic.  We will enjoy the tomatoes in our tomato soup, with this Cioppino, and this bakes shrimp and tomatoes.
Roasted garlic cloves in each jar.
I don't know what it is, but I love a shelf full of canned goods, I prepared myself, and I know we will have some delicious meals ready for the winter.  Now, I am under no hallucination that this is cheaper.  If I figure it out, tomatoes are $6.00 a lb. at the farmer's market, and I got 9 pints of roasted tomatoes.  So, if I did my math correctly (that is always a gamble), the cost was $7.33 a pint, and that doesn't include the cost of energy and my time.  I figure the jars are reusable, I don't figure the cost of energy or my time when I shop, but this makes these tomatoes about three times as much as I would pay at the grocery store for the organic brand I usually buy.  I justify it by knowing my footprint is smaller for these tomatoes, I know where they came from and how they were processed, I know they are organic, and I am supporting a local farmer.  It is a total win as far as I am concerned.

Packed jars ready for lids and bands and to be processed in the hot water bath.

Canning Tomatoes
11 lbs. Roma Tomatoes (this made 9 pints for me)
Lemon juice

Cut tomatoes into fourths, cut out stem.  Lay tomatoes and garlic cloves in single layer on cookie sheets.  Roast at 425° for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill canner with water, add jars and lids, bring to a boil.

When tomatoes come out of the oven, remove jars from boiling water, fill jars with tomatoes, leaving about 1/2" head space, packing snugly.  Top each jar with one or two cloves of garlic with papery peeling peeled off.  Add 1 tsp. lemon juice to each pint jar.  Top with lid then screw on rings.  Place back into canner and bring to boil.  Process for 30 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool.

September 4, 2013  Daylight 14 hrs, 14 mins, 56 secs   Temp H 61/L 41°F

Monday, September 2, 2013

End of the Garden

 Happy Labor Day!  I never figured out why we celebrate the American Labor force with a day off?  Shouldn't we be at work, with like, free cake and ice-cream from our employers?  I don't know about you, but now I have 5 days of work to squeeze into four for the rest of the week.  Not fun.
 But, what I will be doing today, is putting away the garden.  The frost got the zucchini last week, and yes, it is still in the ground (give me a break, I was out of down for work 2 1/2 days last week).  The lilies are all bloomed out and need to be cut back and covered for the winter.
 Even the marigolds are tired and have begin to droop.  They can take a couple of freezes, but they are tired and ready to be pulled.
 We had a gorgeous, hot summer.  I just didn't water the hanging planters enough, so they look like crap!  Time to pull those puppies and put them away until next spring.
 I planted strawberries in pots this year.  They grew beautiful plants, but no strawberries.  I'm not sure why, but I won't do it again next year.  Even the strawberry plants are turning color.  The chickweed is also taking over the planters.  I didn't do a good job cleaning it our when I realized I wasn't going to get any don't take care of me, I don't take care of you...
 The frost got into the greenhouse this week.  I need to cut all the tomatoes and cukes, clean out the beds, and have it ready to store all the gardening crap treasures and pots for the winter.  I'll put the green tomatoes into a box with a banana and they will ripen.  They won't be as good as if they could ripen on the vine, but I don't heat my greenhouse anymore so this time of year, my season is done.
 The last of the cucumbers.  The vines are a tangled mess.  I'll cut the cukes, and then pull the vines.  It is kind of like a treasure hunt, I always find giant cucumbers at the back that I never saw because of all the giant leaves.

Dave is in moose camp, so the dogs are being really naughty.  This was the last cabbage I had growing in a whisky barrel by the green house.  Of course, I checked on it in the evening, it was fine, then went to cut it the next morning, and the dogs had eaten it.  Damn.

Even though it is cold, rainy, and overcast, I'll try to enjoy the day because this is what I'll be waking up to in just a few weeks.  We are down to a little over 14 hours of daylight and we are losing over 6 minutes of daylight a day.  Time to break out the full spectrum "happy" lights.

**Hmm, I must be in a really pleasant mood today, rereading my blog I've used crap twice, damn once, it was all I could do not to say we were moving "back into the frozen hell-hole of winter" and I wanted to call the dogs "shit heads" for eating the cabbage, but I try not to cuss on my blog.  Good thing Dave is out of town.

Happy Labor Day, I'll be laboring in my garden.

September 2, 2013  Daylight 14 hrs., 28 min. 21 secs.   Temp. H 59/ L 48°F