Friday, November 29, 2013

Fig Bars

"One, two, three, four, five, six, seven.  They are all in," the Chick exclaimed as the dogs came running in from the cold.

We have a new game at our house.  It is called "Count the dogs as they run through the door into the house at -20."  It is a game born of necessity.  With three big dogs and four little dogs running into the house all at the same time, it is easy to lose track of who is in and who isn't.  And, at -20 or colder, it could be a real problem for a dog who doesn't usually bark.

This game started after I left Lilly outside.  All the other dogs were in, but Lilly is a sniffer and she was busy sniffing around behind the storage shed because other dogs live on the other side of the fence there.  It was one of those -25° days. We were all in the house and about 5 minutes later I said, "Where's Lilly?" thinking she was upstairs chewing something up...

Nope, she was still outside, looking at the door, lifting one paw and then another because they were so cold, but she never barked.  She is the smallest of the big dogs, but a big dog none-the-less, so no harm- no foul.

Then one morning I left Hershey outside.  He is a small dog, again no bark and colder than -20.  That is a problem.  After I told everyone what I had done, the Chick starting counting the dogs, ALOUD, as they ran in.  So now everyone does it.

Over the weekend the Hippy boy (our oldest) came for a visit and took Tucker home for a sleep-over.  The next morning, the Baby boy spent a while looking, calling and getting his coat on to search for Tucker in the back yard.  When the dogs ran in he only counted to 6.  He forgot Tucker was gone!

Changing topics...

So, one of my favorite winter fruits is figs.  I love figs, but in Fairbanks the best way to get them is dried, fresh figs just don't make it well up here.  So these cookies are made with dried figs.  If you have a good supply of fresh figs you could use those (I'm guessing here), just cook the figs longer and evaporate the extra moisture until they are good and jammy.  These are not very sweet.  The Bboy and the Chick didn't care for them because of that, you could add more sweetener if you like a sweeter cookie.

A simmering pot full of deliciousness.

Orange and Fig Bars
Family Circle, Dec. 2013

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 cups dried figs roughly chopped
1/2 cup orange juice and 2 tsp. orange zest (from one large orange)
2 Tbsp. honey

Pre heat oven to 350°F.  Line a 13X9 inch baking pan with aluminum foil.

In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  In another bowl, beat butter and 1/2 cup of the sugar for 2 minutes, until fluffy.  Beat in vanilla extract.  Pour in flour and beat on low until well combined.  Press firmly and evenly (the flat side of a measuring cup works well) into the foil lined pan.

In a medium lidded pot, combine figs, orange juice and zest, honey and remaining 2 Tbsp. sugar.  Bring to a simmer, cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook 15 minutes.  Using a spatula dipped in warm water, carefully spread fig mixture over cookie layer (re-dip spatula as necessary to prevent sticking).

Bake for 25 minutes.  Cool completely.  Remove from pan by lifting foil and place on cutting board.  Cut into 36 pieces.

1 year ago: When my husband tried to kill me with Cold Medicine and Cinnamon Toast
2 years ago: Caramel Rolls and Black Friday Shopping

November 29, 2013   Daylight 4 hrs, 49 min, 53 sec.  Temp H -15/ L -17°F

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pumpkin Granola

On Thanksgiving morning, we get up and go to Pie Breakfast.  I eat my fill of Wendy's chicken pot pie and I'm in heaven.  Knowing I had a wonderful breakfast to look forward to, I thought I would make a healthy breakfast for my co-workers.  A little way to say I was thankful for working with them and, hey, cut me some slack I know I'm annoying but I'm new around here (and it is only going to get worse!)Well, maybe not the second part, just the thankful part.

What better way to start a day of feasting than with something good and good for you.  I made pumpkin granola.  I love granola.  I usually have a container of homemade granola in my cupboard. I like lots of nuts and dried fruit in mine, but I saw a recipe for pumpkin granola on Pinterest and I thought it would be the perfect Thanksgiving snack.  If you search pumpkin granola on Pinterest, you will come up with about 9, 453 different ways to make pumpkin granola.  Here is my version, it is a combination of about 6 of them.  I love pumpkin pie spice so I added a lot.  Add what makes you happy.  This is so good with milk, on oatmeal, with yogurt, on top of pumpkin muffins, or just by the handful.
The raw ingredients

Toasty goodness: after a turn in the oven

Add the dried fruit and coconut after it cools

Ready for treats at work.

Make this, eat a bowlful and be thankful for all your blessings.  We have way too many to count.

Pumpkin Granola
thanks to the pinners on Pinterest

4 1/2 cups thick cut old fashioned oats
2 1/2 cups Rice Krispies Cereal
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup apple sauce
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup reduce sugar craisins
1/2 cut dried apricots, diced
1/2 cut dried plums, diced

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Lightly spray large baking sheet with cooking spray, or butter pan lightly.

In a large bowl, mix together oats, rice krispy cereal, pumpkin seeds and nuts.

In a smaller bowl mix together salt, sugar, pumpkin puree, apple sauce, maple syrup, and vanilla.

Pour wet ingredients over the oat mixture and mix well.  Spread onto prepared baking sheet.  Bake 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.  Let cool.  Add coconut, craisins, dried apricots, and dried plums, stirring well.  Store in airtight container.  Makes about 9 cups.

1 year ago: Warm Cabbage Slaw with Bacon
2 years ago: Carrot Cake and New Silver Cups
Our two new furry house members...we are working on house training and the shirts help.

November  27, 2013   Daylight  5 hrs, 0 min, 58 secs,   Temp. H /L °F

Monday, November 25, 2013

Pomegranate Martini

I can't really call this drink of the week because I'll have more than one kind of drink this week...and I'm starting early.

My friend Donna comes over the Wednesday before Thanksgiving every year, to keep me company while I make pies for our Thanksgiving dinner.  We always drink coffee with Kahlua and pumpkin creamer.  I used to make about 7 pies, our dinner crowd was so large, but I'm down to just a couple pies since there will only be 6 of us around the table this year.  It just gives us more time to drink.

For our Thanksgiving day drink I'll be making this martini. I have to practice today to make sure it is just right for our guests on Thursday (I am a thoughtful hostess!).   It has just the right amount of citrus to make it fresh, and the pomegranate promises of great holiday memories to come...just don't drink too many or those memories will be ones you regret - or don't remember at all!

Pomegranate martini
2 oz citrus vodka
1 oz Grand Marnier
2 oz pomegranate juice
lemon wedge
orange rind for garnish
pomegranate seeds for garnish, optional

In a shaker filled with ice, add vodka, Grand Marnier, and pomegranate juice.  Shake well.  Strain into martini glass, top with juice from the lemon wedge, twist orange rind over glass, garnish with the rind and pomegranate seeds.

1 year ago:  Baked Eggs in Potatoes
2 years ago:  Spiced Apple Cider

November 25, 2013    Daylight 5 hrs, 12 min, 29 secs.   Temp. H  / L  °F

Friday, November 22, 2013

Pork Medallions with Chickpeas and Cabbage & Blowing Bubbles at -30

It is our first real cold snap.  -30 and getting colder. The house creaks as the cold seeps into the siding and the studs.  Plugging you car in is a necessity. You need to drink more water because it is so cold the air won't hold any humidity.  Everything you touch shocks you.  Your skin looks like alligator scales....  The chick is not sure she should have moved.

At 30 below, the bubbles don't pop, they shatter!

But I had a fun activity to help ease the cold.  I had her bundle up and blow bubbles.  Bubbles at -30 is an interesting event.  You can blow them and they immediately freeze.  When you go to pop them, they don't really pop, they shatter.  We spent a couple cool minutes on the porch blowing bubbles, then came inside to warm up with this delicious dinner.

Pork Medallions with Chickpeas and Cabbage
adapted from Fine Cooking, Oct/Nov 13

2 1lb. pork tenderloins
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 med. yellow onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 small head Savoy cabbage, thinly sliced (6-7 cups)
2 cups Chickpeas (from here   ) or one 15 oz. can
1 cup chicken stock
6 thin slices prosciutto di Parma
6 oz. coarsely grated Italian fontina (about 2 cups)

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 425°F.

Trim and slice each tenderloin on the diagonal into 3 thick medallions.  Place each medallion on a cut side, and using your hands, gently press on each to flatten slightly.  Season on both sides with salt and pepper.

Heat butter and oil in a 12 inch oven proof skillet over medium-high heat.  Working in batches, cook the pork, flipping once, until golden brown, 2-3 minutes per side.  Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Turn the heat down to medium and add the onion and 1/4 tsp. salt.  Cook, stirring often, until lightly browned, 5-6 min.  Add the cabbage, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/2 cup chicken stock.  Stir, cover, turn the heat down to medium low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is tender, 15-20 minutes.  Stir in the chickpeas and the rest of the chicken stock and season taste with salt and pepper. Arrange the pork over the cabbage and the chickpeas and top with the Prosciutto and fontina.  Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook until the pork reaches 145°F, 12-15 minutes.  Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Serves 6

1 year ago:  Ranch Pretzels
2 years ago: Cranberry Salad

November 22, 2013   Daylight 5 hrs, 30 min, 27 sec.    Temp. H -2/L -11°F

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Spice Muffins with Apple Butter Filling

I do as much as possible the night before to get ready for the morning, we are kind of having an issue about this at my house.  I am always running late and it drives my husband crazy.  So, I try to make my lunch the night before, I have my clothes picked out and ready for the week, I set up the coffee so all I have to do is pour the water in and hit the start button.  I try really hard, but then I start reading...

So the other morning, I stumbled downstairs, started the coffee, built the fire and poured myself my first cup.  I love strong coffee so I try to get the first cup out of the pot before it is diluted too much.  I took a sip, eechhhh!  It tasted like dish water (I don't really know what dish water tastes like, but I imagine it tastes like that coffee I just drank).  I checked the coffee pot and I realized I hadn't put fresh coffee grounds in the coffee basket the night before.  I had washed the coffee pot, filled the pitcher with water, but forgot to toss the old grounds and grind new one.  Yeck!

I dumped the "coffee", ground some fresh beans, refilled the coffee pot and waited for it to brew.  I had a little extra time, so I started the oven and threw these together.  They were delicious with my second cup of real coffee, and Dave wasn't too mad about me reading a little too long that morning.  You can't be irritated with your wife while you are eating one of these muffins.

Spice Muffins with Apple Butter Filling
recipe adapted from my Muffin Box

Whisk together in bowl #1
1 3/4 cups unsifted flour
1/4 cup sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger

Mix in bowl #2
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup melted shortening
3/4 cup applesauce

About 16 Tbsp. apple butter, homemade or storebought.

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners or grease cups well.

Add liquid ingredients from bowl #2 to dry ingredients in bowl #1 and stir until just blended.  Fill muffin cups 1/2 full, top with a tablespoon of apple butter, top with more muffin batter to fill muffin cups about 3/4 full and covering apple butter.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Makes 12 muffins.

1 year ago:  Bar-B-Que Ribs
2 years ago: Caramel Sauce

November 20, 2013   Daylight 5 hrs, 42 min, 48 sec.    Temp. H -16 /L -21  °F

Monday, November 18, 2013

Sunday morning and a Pot of Beans

I love Sunday morning.  I'm the first one up by a long shot.  Everyone else is sleeping in so I get a little more quiet time.  I can reflect on the last week (and last week was a doozy!), plan for the next week, read some recipes and cook.

So if you are a regular reader, here is an update of what has been going on...

Our little Miss Leah is home from the hospital.  Mom, Grandmas, Grandpas, Great-Grandmas and Great Grandpa are all fighting over who gets to hold her next.  Everything is going well and the problem with the seizures was due to a calcium and magnesium deficiency, she has had no problems since they leveled her out with a cal/mag drip and she is happy at home.

Fairbanks had a wonderful winter storm; snow, rain, ice, power outages (some people are going over 90 hours without power and heat today and the temp. is dropping), trees fell on houses and was a real mess.  You can read about it here at Fairbanks Daily News Miner.  We were very lucky, no trees, no electrical outages, and Dave drove me to work.

The Bboy and his chick arrived Monday night.  They made it without a hitch and are settling in.  Adding two more dogs to our pack is a little exciting, but we all will adjust.  Lucky for us, the kids drove from Haines to Fairbanks between snowstorms and were tucked in at home safe and sound before the rain hit.

So, here I sit, Sunday morning, extremely thankful for a healthy baby, a safe family at home, heat and electricity, and more dogs than you can shake a stick at.

I have my happy light going, the fire crackling, and a pot of beans on the stove.  I like to make a big batch of beans, portion it, freeze it and then I always have a variety on hand to throw into soup, on top of a salad, in taco meat, or to make a dip.  Fine Cooking had a master recipe this month for chick peas, and I'm trying to add more fiber to the Bboy's diet (he has diverticulitis) and reduce salt (he also has high blood pressure.  I'm sure he would be so happy to know I am sharing this with you!) Chick peas are not something we use a lot of, so I thought I would experiment a little.  Short of hummus (you know the white stuff you serve at holidays (inside joke)), I don't really use them too much.  I'm cooking the dried beans today, I'll roast some for a snack later, use some for a puree with our chicken, and add some to cabbage later this week.  Recipes to follow.

Chickpeas with bay leaves and herbs
adapted from Fine Cooking Oct/Nov 13

1 lb. dried chickpeas (about 2.5 cups)
1 small yellow onion, peeled and quartered
3 large springs of fresh flat-leaf parsley*
3 large springs fresh thyme*
2 bay leaves
Kosher salt

Put the chick peas in a large bowl, cover with cold water by a couple of inches, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or up to 24 hours.

Drain and rinse the chickpeas.  Transfer to a 6-quart pot.  Tie the onion, herbs and bay leaves in a piece of cheesecloth and add the bundle to the pot.  Add 10 cups cold water and bring to a boil, skimming off any foam.  Turn the heat down to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until just tender, about 1 hour.

Add 2 tsp. salt and continue cooking until the chickpeas are fully tender and creamy on the inside but retain their shape, 15-30 minutes more.

Drain the chickpeas, reserving the cooking liquid; discard the herb bundle.  Let the chickpeas and the reserved liquid cool to room temperature.  Refrigerate in separate airtight containers for up to 5 days.

*Fairbanks did not have fresh thyme or parsley when I went to the store, so I had to use dried.

Roasted Spicy Chickpeas
15 oz. chickpeas, from above recipe (about 2 good cups) or 1 can
1 tsp. Tabasco original hot sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. olive oil

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Line baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Mix all ingredients in a bowl, stirring to coat well.  Pour onto baking sheet in a single layer.  Bake for 25 minutes, shaking pan every 10 minutes or so.  Chickpeas are done when they are crunchy.

1 year ago: Gingerbread Biscotti
2 years ago: Hard Apple Cider

November 18, 2013   Daylight 5 hrs, 55 min, 23 sec   Temp. H 0/ L -7°F

Friday, November 15, 2013

Folded Nutella Cookies and the Happy Light

In my ever increasing attempts to insure the baby boy and his chick are happy, productive, and love Alaska while they are here, I purchased a "Happy Light" for them.  This light is recommended for some people who live in areas where sunlight is limited (Hello Fairbanks).  It is supposed to help reverse the symptoms of winter blues such as depression, lethargy, and sluggishness.  I don't want the Bboy and his chick to be depressed and I really don't want them lethargic or sluggish since they will be working and going to school.

My plan was to put it on the shelf in the dinning area, right next to the table.  I am hoping it will get turned on in the mornings, everyone will benefit from it (Dave needs it too, but he would never admit it), and we all will go on with our day in a happy, productive way.

So I bought it (over $100!), set it up and began to read the directions.  First of all the directions say, "place lamp 6 inches from face."  6 inches, you have got to be kidding me.  How can I sit with that overly bright thing in my face only 6 inches away?

Then it says "Use lamp for 30-60 minutes daily."  Really, I'm going to sit with that lamp shining in my eyes, bright enough that they are streaming tears, they are watering so much, 6 inches from my face for 60 have got to be kidding me, the first time I tried it I didn't last 4 minutes.  How am I going to get the chick and the Bboy to do this?  It's not going to happen.  I just spent over $100 for this damn light and all it is doing is pissing me off.

So I made cookies.  Nutella fixes everything.  I made these cookies, I sat down with a cup of tea and a plate full a couple of cookies and reread the instruction manual.  O.K. it says 6-36 inches and 30-60 minutes, not directly in front of your face.  So the shelf with the cookbooks next to the table will work after all.  I'll turn it on when I get up and Dave can turn it off before he goes to work and we can all benefit.

I should have saved us some money and just bought a couple jars of Nutella for the Bboy and the chick, we all would have been happier.

Nutella Folded Cookies
adapted from Taste of Home, November 2013

1 Tbsp. finely chopped hazelnuts
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup cold butter, cubed
2 Tbsp. Nutella, plus more for eating while you make these cookies
1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350°F.  In a small bowl, mix hazelnuts and sugar.  In a large bowl, whisk four, confectioners' sugar and cornstarch.  Cut in butter until crumbly.  Transfer to a clean work surface.  Knead gently until mixture forms a smooth dough, about 2 minutes (dough will be crumbly but will come together).

Divide dough in half.  On a lightly floured surface, roll each portion to 1/8 inch thickness.  Cut with floured 2 inch round cookie cutter.  Place 1/4 tsp. Nutella in center.  Fold dough partway over filling, just enough to cover.

Place 1 inch apart on greased baking sheets.  Brush with beaten egg; sprinkle with hazelnut mixture.  Bake 10-12 minutes or until bottoms are light brown.  Remove to wire racks to cool.

November 15, 2014   Daylight  6 hrs, 14 min, 38 sec.   Temp. H 13/ L 3°F

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

New Windows

When we were newly married, we could afford old and big or new and small.  With trying to blend 5 children into a new family, we opted for old and big, that way everyone could take a different corner if we needed to have some space.  One of the headaches joys of an old house, is there is always something that needs to be fixed, updated, repaired, replaced or brought up to code.  So for the last 12 years we have been doing just that.

At first it was very little things, as we could afford them.  Then, as the list dwindled down, we got to the more expensive things.  This fall we are tackling the windows.
The old windows, after the trim was removed.

Putting in the new windows.

New windows before the trim was installed.

These windows are original to the house, about 1967 or so.  The are drafty, they leak, and you would have to break them to get out in an emergency.  After looking into selling our house last spring, the windows were one thing both the realtor and the appraiser said we needed to fix.  So here we are, fixing them.

I do love the look of the new windows and I am hoping the rooms are a little warmer with the newer technology that goes along with them.  I also know the baby boy and his chick will be able to escape if they need to.
Kitchen window before...

Kitchen window after...

So, in celebration of the new windows I made an old childhood favorite.  Stained glass window cookies.  I loved these as a kid.  I always dreamed of having a Christmas tree decorated with nothing but these cookies and twinkling has never happened, but there is still time.  If I don't eat them all, this could be the start for my tree this year!  Don't plan on it.

Stained Glass Window Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups flour
hard candies, jolly ranchers or lifesavers, colors separated and candies crushed

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, add egg, vanilla, and salt mix completely.  Add flour in three batches, mixing until combined.  Do not over beat.  Divide dough into two balls, place on plastic wrap and flatten into disks, wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Cover cookie sheets with aluminum foil and lightly spray with cooking spray.  Remove one disk of cookie dough.  Roll dough between two sheets of wax paper that has been lightly floured.  Remove top sheet of wax paper and cut dough into desired shapes.  Move shapes to prepared cookie sheets, spaced about 1 inch apart.

Cut center out of shape with a smaller cookie cutter or knife.  (Remove center shapes to a separate cookie sheet for baking.)  Fill centers of cut-outs with crushed candies.  Bake until cookies are light brown and crushed candies are melted about 6-10 minutes.  Let cool on cookies sheets about 5 minutes, carefully peel cookies from aluminum foil and cool completely on cooling rack.  Makes about 3 dozen.

November 13, 2013  Daylight 6 hrs.  27 min.  41 sec.   Temp. H 33/ L 17°F

Monday, November 11, 2013


About 370,000 babies are born every day worldwide.  11,000 of those babies are born in the U.S. And yet, this one baby had captured the hearts and practically every waking thought of our entire family.  

Leah was born on Thursday evening to my niece Jess in Kansas, 6 lbs. 1 oz.  She is the first grandchild for my brother.  Jess' mom was in the delivery room with her, my brother in the hospital waiting room, great-grandma on her way from out of state.  I was checking my phone for updates every 3.5 seconds (And I wasn't annoying to EVERYONE who was within earshot).  She was a greatly anticipated gift we were all anxiously waiting for.  She arrived in the usual way, had 10 fingers and 10 toes and lots of dark hair, just like her beautiful momma.

She needed a little oxygen, her color wasn't good and by morning, she had pneumonia.  I.V. antibiotics were administered and all seemed well.  Miss Leah's color had improved and she was responding to the treatment.  Then the seizures started.  She was Lifewatched to Wesley hospital in Wichita where they have the specialized care and equipment for her.  A spinal tap on Saturday and an EEG on Sunday was part of the plan to find out what is going on in that tiny body.  

We are all beside ourselves with worry, as you can imagine.   

So if you are a person who prays, I would ask that you take just a moment to pray for our Leah.  We are praying unceasingly.

November 11, 2013     Daylight  6 hrs. 40 min. 51 sec.   Temp. H 18/ L 0°F

Friday, November 8, 2013

Apple Butter

**Random Kid update**The Baby Boy and his Chick are getting on the Ferry for Alaska TODAY in Bellingham, Washington...

When I lived in Kansas with my mom, one of the Fall activities I enjoyed was going to an orchard and picking fruit.  Apples and peaches (except for the unfortunate "Peaches" incident,) were picked, processed and stored.  I loved the smell of the house as my mom made apple butter, apple pie filling, peach pie filling, peach jelly...

Dave took me to the store on Sunday, I'm still not driving after my fall and sprained ankle.  I needed some curtains for the new windows in the dinning area.  I went to pick out the curtains, then went to the Starbucks and got a coffee to wait for Dave (he had to to the shopping).  As I sat there, an older man got his coffee and sat down and began to visit with me.  Turns out his name was Tony and he was 86.  We had a nice visit while we sipped our coffee.  One of the things we talked about is how people buy everything we used to make; like bread, butter, and jam.  He had grown up on a farm, like I did, and you either made it or you did without.

Living in Fairbanks, it really isn't cost effective to make your own like we did on the farm.  And, I certainly don't need anymore excuses to eat sweets or have the need to store a year's worth of food.  But I do love the smell of the house while something simmers on the stove (or in this case the crock pot).  So I made apple butter in the crock pot. Dave had to go back and get some apples and when we got home, I made a small batch, just enough for some filling in spice muffins, the topping for my yogurt, and on some toast.
I used a mix of Granny Smith and Jazz apples

A kitchen towel to help with the evaporation process

About 4 hours into the cooking.
After 10 hours of cooking and a spin with the emersion blender.

I certainly didn't need it, but it did smell wonderful, taste delicious, and I'm sure my ankle is better for it eating it.  I'll look for Tony next week when I go shopping to thank him for the great idea.
A dollop of apple butter on my yogurt/cottage cheese snack.  YUM!

Apple Butter
this made about 2.5 cups of apple butter
6 Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored and chopped
6 Jazz Apples, peeled, cored and chopped
2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves

Place all ingredients into slow cooker.  Cook on high for 1 hour, turn to low, place a kitchen towel under the lid and down the sides to help steam escape (or just set the lid off center to allow steam to escape) and cook 8-10 hours more.  At this point you can break down the apples with a pastry blender or use an immersion blender to puree, depending on the texture you enjoy.

Let cool completely, pack in small containers and freeze.

I do not add sugar, I think it is sweet enough without, but you could add granulated sugar or brown sugar to taste.  Start with 1/2 cup.  Remember, it will be sweeter as it thickens and loses the water as it cooks.

November 8, 2013   Daylight 7 hrs, 0 min, 46 sec.   Temp H 18/ L 12°F

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Hasselback Potatoes

I had planned to blog about a sweet memory of digging potatoes with my grandpa.  I just fed the dogs and was headed back into the pantry to grab some potatoes to work with.  I turned the corner AND THERE IT WAS.


A filthy mouse with a tail and everything, under the bird cage RIGHT NEXT TO THREE DOGS.  The dogs were so busy with their food they never even noticed.  I screached, the mouse ran, the dogs didn't break stride in chowing down.

Dave had to go to the store THAT VERY MINUTE to get  some mouse traps.  (Yes, I am yelling a lot today, but I had A MOUSE  in my house (and no it wasn't as fun as a Dr. Seuss book)).   He got home, loaded the traps with peanut butter and we waited...

We have caught one mouse in the last week.  I am hopeful that there was only one.  But where there is one - there is two, and where there is two - there is twenty.  I have started bleaching everything in the house and checking the corners of all the rooms and closets for signs of mice, but nothing so far.  I think he must have just moved in, since the weather has been so warm this fall, and he hadn't had a chance to really settle in and explore (that's what I'm going with and don't give me any mouse facts that might ruin my delusion).

So here is the damn potato I made for dinner that day.  I'll tell you about digging potatoes with my grandpa when I'm finished bleaching the house.

Hasselback Potatoes

2 slices bacon, diced and fried crisp, reserve bacon fat
4 medium russet potatoes
thinly sliced garlic
cheddar cheese, sliced very thin
4 Tbsp. heavy cream

Sour cream, optional topping
chives, optional topping

Preheat oven to 400 °F.  Wash and dry potatoes, do not peel.

Slice potatoes vertically, almost all the way through but leaving the bottom attached (I use the old wooden spoon trick).

Place a slice of garlic between several slices of each potato.  Place a slice of cheese between several slices of each potato.  Drizzle with bacon fat (or olive oil if you aren't using bacon).  Bake in oven for 30 minutes.
Remove the potatoes from the oven, pour 1 Tbsp. heavy cream over each potato, making sure it drizzles down into the slices.  Return to oven and bake for 20-30 more minutes, until potatoes are baked through.  Remove from oven.
Top each potato with a dollop of sour cream, crumbled bacon, and chives.  Serve.

November 6, 2013    Daylight 7 hrs, 14 min, 8 sec.  Temp.  H 15/ L 8°F

Monday, November 4, 2013

Pumpkin Muffins

Living in Alaska does skew your view of the world when you are a child (o.k. even as an adult).  My children grew up in a world where dark never existed without cold, summer was always light (at least while they were awake),  cows were funny looking moose, and corn and pumpkins were things you only found at the grocery store.

When Zach was about 3 years old we went to Montana to visit grandparents, he was amazed at the big group of funny looking moose, and all standing in a group... they were cows.   When he was 5 during our trip, he came screaming in the house because it was getting dark outside and he needed his coat, NOW... it was 85°F but he had never experienced dark and warm together before.  When he was 7, his grandma grew a pumpkin for him in Montana and he didn't understand how she got it out of the can to look like that (and before I get any grief, yes he did carve pumpkins every year at Halloween, so why he thought this I can't answer, I blame it on his father....)!
A moist pumpkin muffin with a little sweet surprise inside!

Yes, we shopped at the farmer's market, but Fairbanks just doesn't get warm enough for big pumpkins and corn so we always bought them from the grocery store.  The first time my son went to a pumpkin field and saw rows and rows of pumpkins, he was amazed...and he was in his 20s!  He had to call me and tell me all about it, it was so novel to him. 

I use a lot of pumpkin.  It has great fiber and I use it in lots of dishes, lasagna, soup, my morning smoothie, I think it is very mild and can be added without a change of taste, but can add a silky texture.  I also love the taste of pumpkin and pumpkin spices, pumpkin latte, Pumpkin creamer with Kahlua in my coffee,  pumpkin pie, pumpkin cookies...yep, I love it all.  I thought I would make pumpkin muffins for 'Muffin Monday' this week. The house smelled warm and spicy, the muffins were moist and delicious.  I love stuff on top of my muffins like these pumpkin seeds and topping.  Yum...
Lots of spices.

Isn't November the official "Stuff Something" month?  See how I'm helping you.

Pumpkin Muffins
adapted from All Recipes

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 1/2 tsps. pumpkin pie spice - divided
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 (15 oz.) can cooked pure pumpkin

Optional Topping
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. butter, softened
2 Tbsp. rolled oats
2 Tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
Pumpkin seeds

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line 12 muffin tins with paper cups, or butter tins well.

Mix cream cheese, granulated sugar, and 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice in small bowl.  Place in refrigerator to cool.

Mix brown sugar, butter, rolled oats, flour, and pumpkin pie spice together until well mixed and crumbly.  Set aside.

Stir flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice, cardamom, ginger, slat and baking soda together in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Beat brown sugar and egg together with an electric mixer until well mixed, add all the vegetable oil and pumpkin, mix well.  Add flour and spice mixture, mixing by hand until just incorporated.

Fill muffin cups 1/2 way with pumpkin mixture, add about 1 tsp. cream cheese mixture to each muffin cup, top with remaining pumpkin mixture, cover cream cheese completely.

Top muffins with pumpkin seeds and sugar/oatmeal topping.  Bake for 25 minutes or until tops springs back when gently touched.  Cool for 5 minutes, then remove from muffin tins.  Cool completely.  Be careful, cream cheese stays hot!

November 4, 2013   Daylight 7 hrs.  27min.  33sec.   Temp. H 31 / L 22°F