Monday, January 26, 2015

Mexican Chocolate Mug Cake

We are having a cold snap.  It was 18 below when I woke up on Sunday, and dropped to 25 below before 10:00 am (UPDATE It was 44 below zero on Monday morning!).  I refused to check the temperature again.  It was a good excuse to stay home by the fire, stay in jamies, play words with friends, and make this mug cake.  

This mug cake is chocolatey, fudgey, and delicious.  Topped with a little whipped cream while the cake is still warm and is softens and melts into each bite.  It was delicious!

Dave will be driving me to work this week, at least until the temperatures pick up later in the week.  I'll have to make him a treat for playing chauffeur for me this week.  He will love this...and it makes two, so I'll get a treat along with him.
This is the chocolate I buy in the Mexican section of my local grocery store.

Each box has 5 disks, I'll have plenty of chocolate for cakes this week.

Warm chocolate cake with melty whipped cream...mmmmmmmm.

Mexican Chocolate Mug Cake
from Leslie Bilderback's Mug Cakes

2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 wheel Mexican chocolate, chopped
1 large egg
3.5 Tbsp. milk
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 Tbsp. self-rising flour
Pinch of kosher salt

Combine the butter and Mexican chocolate in a large mug.  Microwave for 30-60 minutes until melted.  Whisk with a fork to combine, then whisk in the egg.  Stir in the milk, vanilla, brown sugar, and cocoa.  Add the flour and salt.  Beat the batter until smooth.  Divide the batter between two mugs.  Microwave separately for 1.5 to 2.5 minutes each until risen and firm.

January 26, 2015   Sunrise 9:55 am  Sunset 4:12 pm  Temp H -26/ L -38°F

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Music for the Pug

So my dog, Hershey loves to watch these music videos by The Hound + The Fox.  They are a couple from Fairbanks. The videos get shared by some of my Facebook friends because they know the families.  Hershey loves them!  I don't know if it is the music or if he just relates to their name?

Look them up on YouTube.

January 21, 2015  Sunrise 10:10 am  Sunset 3:55 pm  Temp H 1/ L -8°F

Monday, January 19, 2015

Banana Mug Cake

I have today off from work and I can't decide if I want to go to a movie or clean house...tough decision isn't it. So while I contemplate my choices I made a banana mug cake and read one of my favorite cooking magazines.  Hmmm, I don't think the upstairs is going to get vacuumed today!

Banana Mug Cake

1/2 overripe banana, keep the other half in the freezer for smoothies or more mug cakes
1 large egg
2 Tbsp. buttermilk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp. chopped walnuts
1/2 cup self-rising flour
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of kosher salt

Place banana in a mug and mash it well with a fork.  Whisk i the egg and oil.  Stir in the buttermilk, vanilla, and sugar.  Add the flour, spices and salt.  Beat the batter until smooth.  Divide the batter between two mugs, sprinkle half the walnuts on top of each mug. Microwave separately for 1.5 to 2.5 minutes each until risen and firm.
1 year ago:   Weaving Bacon
2 years ago:  BLT Wedge Salad and no Chauffeur
3 years ago:  Packer-tini

January 19, 2015  Sunrise 10:16 am, Sunset 3:48 pm Temp. H 22/ L 9°F

Friday, January 16, 2015

Nutella Palmiers and the New Dental Hygienist

I deserve a medal or something.  I went to the dentist this week and my dental hygienist, for the last 27 years, has retired and moved out of state.  So I was faced with a new, young face.  Let's not forget the issue I just had getting a filling replaced by my new dentist, and now I have to deal with a new hygienist...the joy never ends.

Well, when I arrived and checked in, I did tell the receptionist how unhappy I was that some people get to retire and move closer to grandchildren and force change upon those of us who don't like change and don't have grandchildren to move closer to.  She agreed that we all missed our former hygienist, but she assured me I would really like this new one.
"Well, you better warn her about me."  I stated tersely, and I went and sat down with a magazine.

In no time at all I heard my name being called.  I looked up to the face of my young, smiling dental hygienist.
"Toni, are you ready?  I'm so glad you are here," she says.
"Did they warn you about me?" I asked, "They should have."
She laughed a little uncomfortably, "Yes, I was warned.  I know we all miss Ellen.  Even my mom used to go to Ellen."
"Well, I just might cry."  I stated.
"That's O.K.", she said, "If you cry, I'll cry right along with you, I'm due with my first baby next week and I'm an emotional wreck."
So we bonded over tears unshed...and so I didn't cry and I deserve a medal.
And since there are no medals to be had, I'll have some warm cookies with Nutella.  I deserve a treat.

Nutella and Biscoff Butter Palmiers

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
Nutella, about 1 cup
Biscoff butter, about 1 cup

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Line cookie sheet with parchment.

Roll puff pastry sheet to remove fold lines.  Spread Nutella over half of the sheet, starting on the long end and moving toward the center.  Spread Biscoff butter over the other half of the sheet.  Roll the pastry sheet, starting on a long end, to the center, until all the Nutella is rolled up.  Roll the other side with the Biscoff butter, to the center, until it touched the Nutella roll.  You should have two rolls that meet in the middle, one all Nutella, one all Biscoff.  
Cut 1/4 inch cookies across both rolls and place on cookie sheet.  Pull bottom to make it a heart shape.  Pinch it a little, it will soften and round while it is baking.

Bake for 12-15 minutes until puff pastry is golden brown.  Cool on pan about 5 minutes, them remove to cooling rack.

January 16, 2015  Sunrise 10:24am Sunset 3:38 pm Temp H 27/ L 7°F

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Walnut and Blue Cheese Stuffed Poached Pear Salad

I am starting dinner with a salad every night now.  And in order not to get too many complaints, I am trying to mix it up a bit and make some of them look a little fancy, so my husband doesn't realize I'm getting him to eat his greens first, and maybe slow down on the red meat.  Yea, my husband needs it.

I made these poached pears on Sunday and served them as a first course for dinner.  The nice thing is you can poach them when you have time and they can sit in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them, just let them sit out about 30 minutes to come to room temperature. The spicy arugula is a nice bite next to the sweet pear and savory blue cheese.  If you haven't achieved blue cheese, a nice goat cheese would work, or leave it out like I did for the dairy free kids at the table, the walnuts and dried cranberries are still delicious in this salad.

Walnut and Blue Cheese Stuffed Poached Pear Salad
adapted from Barefoot Contessa, Back to Basics

2 ripe but firm Anjou pears
2 lemons, juiced
2 oz. blue cheese
1/4 cup toasted walnuts
1/2 cup apple juice
3 Tbsp. brandy
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup good olive oil
4 oz. baby arugula
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Peel the pears and slice them lengthwise into halves.  With a small, sharp knife and a melon baller, remove the core and seeds from each pear, leaving a round well for the filling.  Trim a small slice away from the rounded sides of each pear half so they will sit on the baking dish without wobbling.  Toss the pears with lemon juice to prevent them from turning brown.  Arrange them, core side up in a baking dish large enough to hold the pears snugly.
     Gently toss the crumbled blue cheese, dried cranberries, and walnuts together in a small bowl.  Divide the mixture among the pears, mounding it on top of the indentation.
     In the same small bowl, combine the apple cider, brandy and brown sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Pour the mixture over and around the pears.  Bake the pears, basting occasionally with the cider mixture, for 30 minutes, or until tender.  Set aside until warm or at room temperature.
     Just before serving, whisk together the olive oil, 1/4 cup lemon juice, and 1/4 cup of the basting liquid in a large bowl.  Add the arugula and toss well.  Divide the arugula among 4 plates and top each with a pear half.  Drizzle each pear with some of the dressing, sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve.
Serves 4

1 year ago:   Moose outside my Window and Lobster Bisque
2 years ago:  Vodka Martini for a Hard Week
3 years ago:  Grapefruit Poundcake for Sunday Dinner

January 13, 2014  Sunrise 10:32  Sunset 3:28  Temp. H 25/ L 10°F

Friday, January 9, 2015

Easy Cassoulet

So, if you have been reading my blog you would think that the only things I eat/drink is dessert and drink of the week.  While I do that quite a bit (and that is why I have to wear my big girl pants), they are not the only things I ingest.

I made this delicious dinner for my family a few nights ago.  Now that we are all home for dinner every night, and no one is doing June duty, I really wanted to get us back into a regular routine.  I think that we are needing the comfort of "regular life" what ever that is, at this time, especially since my busy travel season starts in about 6 weeks.

This easy cassoulet came together quickly, was warm and comforting, and even Dave, the chicken hater, enjoyed it.  It gave us some time to cuddle by the wood stove while it simmered but didn't take all day, a double win.

Easy Chicken Cassoulet
adapted from Ellie Krieger, Comfort Food Fix

3/4 cup whole-wheat bread crumbs
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil plus 1 tsp.
6 bone in chicken thighs, about 1 3/4 lb.
1/2 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
1/4 tsp. black pepper
4 oz. turkey kielbasa, sliced in 1/4 inch thick rounds
2 ribs celery
1 large onion
1 Tbsp. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. allspice
1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 cup dry white wine
1-14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3- 15 oz. cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a small bowl, toss the bread crumbs with the garlic ad 1 tsp. olive oil.

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or ovenproof pot over medium-high heat.  Season the chicken with 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. black pepper.  Brown the chicken on both sides until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side (I did mine in two batches).  Transfer to a plate.  Add the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, until brown, about 3 minutes.  Transfer to the plate with the chicken.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the celery, onion, thyme, bay leaf, and the remaining salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are softened, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the allspice, then sprinkle with the flour and stir until well incorporated, about 1 minutes.  Add the wine and simmer until the liquid i thickened and reduced by half, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the tomatoes, broth, and eans and return the chicken and sausage to the pot, tucking them into the bean mixture.  Sprinkle the top with the garlic bread crumbs and bake in the middle of the oven until the chicken is cooked through, about 40 minutes.  All to stand 10 minutes before serving.
Makes 6 servings.

1 year ago:   Chili Rubbed Pork Roast and Losing my favorite Books
2 years ago:  So Long to a Good Friend
3 years ago:  Chicken Soup and The Crazy Cooking Challange

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Salty Dog

I'm just here to help you, really...

The new year brings resolutions, new exercise routines, trips to the gym, new food plans.  I know, I do it all too.  I am suffering through loving my new exercise videos ChaLean Extream (I call her mean Chalean), and I am sweating like a dog!  I am also watching what I eat, adding in more veggies, and looking at calorie counts, carbs, and fats (those big girl pants are starting to shrink already!)

And so, I bring you drink of the week.  The Salty Dog.  Now I chose this because of it's heath benefits.  When you exercise, you sweat, when you sweat, you lose salt; therefore the salted rim.  I am trying to add more fruits and veggies, so the grapefruit juice (and we all know grapefruit juice helps you burn fat!).  And the vodka is only about 96 calories and no carbs, see I'm doing you a favor by showing you this.  Also, it is a very easy drink to make because I know you will be tired from all the exercise (and weak from the limited number of calories you are eating).

So here is to a new year and a new you, let's toast with a Salty Dog.

Salty Dog Cocktail

rimming salt
grapefruit juice

1 oz. vodka
2 oz. grapefruit juice

Pour a little grapefruit juice in a bowl.  Dip rim of glass in juice then rimming salt, set aside.

Pour 1 oz. vodka and 2 oz. grapefruit juice in shaker over ice.  Shake until very cold, strain into prepared glass.  Feel good about this healthy drink.  Cheers

1 year ago:   Plain Chocolate Fudge and Losing June's Coat
2 years ago:  New Cookbooks
3 years ago:  Surprise Birthday Party

January 7, 2015   Sunrise 10:45 am  Sunset 3:10 pm  Temp. H 0/ L -2°F

Monday, January 5, 2015

Nutella Mug Cakes

It is my birthday.  I love my birthday.  I am not one to shy away from the number I have grown to, I worked hard to get through each one of those years.  I embrace the joy I get from remembering years, friends, and adventures I've had and I look forward to more.

So, in celebration of finishing my 53rd year and embarking on my 54th I made myself a Nutella Mug Cake for Mug Cake Monday.  It was a sweet gift I made for myself.

Nutella Mug Cake
From Mug Cakes
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 cup Nutella
1 large egg
2 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
6 Tbsp. self-rising flour
pinch of kosher salt
1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted

In a large mug, combine the butter and Nutella.  Microwave for 20-30 seconds until melted.  Whisk in the egg with a fork.  Stir in the milk, vanilla, and sugar.  Add the flour and salt.  eat the batter until smooth.  Fold in the hazelnuts.  Divide the batter between two mugs.  Microwave separately for 1.5 to 2.5 minutes each until risen and firm.  Top with a dollop of whipped cream and a whole hazelnut when cool.

1 year ago:   Tattoos and Crock Pot Chocolate Nut Clusters
2 years ago:  Dog Sledding with the Chick
3 years ago:  Birthday Resolutions and the Carrot Martini

January 5, 2015   Sunrise 10:48 am  Sunset 3:05 pm  Temp. H -17/ L -26°F

Friday, January 2, 2015

Espresso Caviar with Chocolate Mousse

If you are a food snob, quit reading right now.  I am not a food snob, there are certain "good" foods I just haven't developed a taste for, and that is just alright with me.  One of them is caviar.  I have had the good stuff, not my favorite, and I have had the not so good stuff, REALLY not my favorite.

In 1990 I spend several weeks in Magadan, Russia on an exchange with the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.  Six of us went over, stayed with different host families, took Russian Language classes in the mornings and cultural activities in the afternoons.  I stayed with a young woman named Irena.  One of the professors at the Magadan Institute was from Alaska, and a good friend with Irena.  I got to go on a couple of extra excursions.  Some very pleasant; a cook-out to the beach, a trip to a small holiday town,  a remote reindeer herding village, and one very moving; a trip to an abandoned concentration camp from Stalin's days.

Where ever we went, the Russian people would offer their best, as we were the first Americans in that part of the country (remember this was about 24 years ago).  And everyone had home-made salmon egg caviar they were so proud to share.  Now, I don't care for the little tiny black caviar, let alone the salmon egg sized caviar.  It was always served on thick slices of bread with a 1/2 inch layer of butter and then lots of red, salty caviar.  I'm sure it was delicious, if you liked caviar, but I do not.  And, you had to eat it, it would be a huge insult if you didn't.  I learned not to eat it fast to get it down because then you would get another piece, I would take a bite and leave it on my plate for last.  After a few house visits, Irena would quietly take the bread off my plate and eat it.  I was so relieved she liked it and felt like it was almost a favor that she got an extra serving...that is until I thanked her and mentioned how much she must like it.
"No, I don't like it either," she told me.  "I just saw how hard it was for you to get it down.  It was less hard for me to swallow it."  
I owe her big time for that.

I saw this caviar recipe and thought it might be a kind I would like.  It is a fun twist on caviar, and looks fancy on top of the Chocolate Mousse.  I'm going to try it with cranberry juice next...or not, it might remind me too much of the color of salmon caviar, and I won't be able to get it down.
Here's to Irena.

Espresso Caviar
from Sprinkle Bakes

Use this caviar as a topping or garnish to impart flavor and texture to desserts (good for savory applications too!)  Be sure to plan ahead.  Chilling the oil overnight is an important step and should not be skipped.

Special equipment:
Plastic squeeze bottle, unused medicine dropper or culinary syringe
Mesh sieve or slotted spoon

2-3 cups vegetable oil
1 1/4 oz. packages powdered gelatin
3 tablespoons cold water
3 fluid oz. hot liquid, hot coffee, hot chocolate
1/4 cup salt for water bath

1.  Place oil in a 9x13 inch metal pan and store in refrigerator overnight.  The oil must be very cold for the gelatin to set properly.

2.  In a medium bowl, mix the gelatin and water until thoroughly combined and no lumps of gelatin remain.  Let stand while you prepare the hot liquid.

3.  Warm 3 oz. liquid on the stove or in a microwave until very hot but not boiling.  Pour liquid over set gelatin mixture and stir until gelatin is melted.  This make take a few minutes and you can break up the gelatin with a spoon for quicker dissolve.

4.  When gelatin is completely melted, transfer liquid to a squeeze bottle.  You can also leave the mixture in the bowl and use a medicine dropper or syringe to draw the liquid for dropping.

5.  Let he mixture stand for a few minutes, if it is too hot the gelatin will not set properly and the caviar will be misshapen.  It should be just barely warm - almost room temperature.

6.  While you wait for your mixture to cool, prepare the oil for the ice bath.  Transfer chilled oil to a 1 quart container (preferably metal because it will aid cooling, but glass will work too.)  Prepare the ice bath.  Make sure the bowl you are using for the ice bath is larger than the container holding the oil.  Fill bowl with ice and then add water until the bowl is two-thirds filled.  Add 1/4 cup salt and stir until mixed.  Rest the container of oil inside the water bath.

7.  Begin dropping gelatin mixture into the cold oil, 1-3 drips at a time.  The amount of drips will vary according to the viscosity of the oil and type of dropper you use.  It took me about 3 drips for one caviar pearl to form.  You will know the correct amount when the mixture forms a ball that rests on the surface for a moment then sinks to the bottom.

8.  When half the mixture has been used, wait for 3-5 minutes then scoop the caviar into a mesh sieve or slotted spoon to drain.  Place caviar in an air-tight container or a canning jar with a screw-tight lid.  Resume dropping the gelatin mixture into the cold oil until all of the mixture is used.

9.  When finished, place caviar in a canning jar or in an air-tight container with a little of the oil poured over the top.  This keeps the caviar moist for up to a week.  Rinse with very cold water before use.

Chocolate Mousse
serves 12

2 cups whipping cream
16 oz. dark chocolate (65-70%)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
sweetened whipped cream, optional topping

Melt chocolate over double boiler until smooth.  Remove from heat.  Pour whipping cream and vanilla into a cold bowl, whip at high speed until medium soft peaks form.  Pour melted chocolate into whipping cream, all at once and mix quickly.  Mix with a rubber spatula until completely combined and no white streaks remain.  Dish into individual glasses or bowls.  Serve immediately or chill until ready to use.  Before serving, bring to room temperature by setting mousse out of the refrigerator for 15-30 minutes.  Top with sweetened whipped cream and espresso caviar.

1 year ago:  Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili and Eating Soap
2 years ago:  Sun Dried Tomato and Blue Cheese Torte
3 years ago:  Aztec Chocolate Cakes and De-Santatizing the House

January 2, 2015   Sunrise 10:53 am  Sunset 2:57 pm  Temp. H -1/ L -8°F