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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Spicy Pepita Brittle and some resolutions...

The last day of 2009. This year more than any feels like a new beginning. Things have not been easy in 2009. It was definitely a year of change and transition. I'm trying not to fight the Fairbanks life, and am coming to terms with the fact that this is where I live for now. I'm not one for resolutions, but there are some things I want to accomplish this next year.
I want to renew my adventurous spirit (hopefully this will renew a thinner spirit as well). I would like to complete three major hikes this summer: this one, this one and this one. I would also like to ride my bike to Chena Hot Springs from our house, spend the night and ride back. I have also been very curious about this as well and if it goes well, would like to try and train for this in 2011. In addition I am hoping to revive my creative spirit by taking some art classes at the University starting with ceramics this spring semester. I'm still hoping to expand the blog to include more than just food. I'm still trying to figure that out. Food alone does not make me a well rounded girl (well, actually it does and that is the problem).
So, I wish you all a Happy New Year! Good luck with those resolutions. Don't forget to enjoy the blue moon tonight. Here's to a spicier new year...

This Pepita Brittle is great on a salad of mixed greens and gorgonzola with a simple white wine vinaigrette. It was supposed to be included on our Christmas dinner menu, but it took me several tries to get the recipe right, this is a good one. Keep an eye on the heat as once it gets to 300 degrees, the temperature really shoots up fast.

Spicy Pepita Brittle
adapted from Brittles, Barks, and BonBons
Ingredients
Butter, for pan
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups sugar
1 cup water
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 cups pepitas

Lightly butter a 10-by-15-inch jelly-roll pan and place parchment on bottom of pan, lightly butter parchment as well.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together the sugar, water, and corn syrup until the sugar is completely dissolved, about 5 minutes. Increase the heat to high and boil without stirring until the syrup is golden brown (about 335°F [168°C] on a candy thermometer), 10 to 15 minutes. When the sugar begins to brown around the edges of the pan, swirl the pan gently so that it caramelizes evenly. Quickly remove from the heat and carefully stir in the pepitas, cayenne, and salt.
Immediately pour into the prepared pan, using a spatula or wooden spoon to spread the nuts out flat if necessary. Let the brittle stand at room temperature until cool and hard, about 1 hour. Chop or break into chunks. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A little something under the tree...


Ok, so Christmas was days ago and we have already put all our presents away...but I did find something under the tree today!!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Peppermint Ice Cream

All this time off from work has given me a lot more time to linger in the kitchen. It also allows me to take photos during those precious three hours of sunlight we now have (the days are getting longer).
I have always loved peppermint ice cream. I distinctly remember being in an ice cream shop when I was a kid and being thrilled to find peppermint ice cream in July. I always favored the ones that had bits of green candies too. I also remember once being seduced by the same pink color in bubble gum ice cream, when peppermint wasn't available. Even as a kid a remember thinking that it just didn't work. How was I supposed to chew and obscene amount of gum and eat ice cream at the same time? There is something about those partially melted bits of peppermint candy that I just can't resist. I am not normally a peppermint fan, so that says something. I don't even use peppermint toothpaste!
I found this recipe last summer when I was busy whipping up seasonal specialties like Blueberry Lavender and Cranberry Sorbet. I knew I would have to make this one once Christmas rolled around. I crushed my candy canes in a food processor to the point that some of them turned to powder, this also turned the ice cream a lovely shade of pink.
Peppermint Ice Cream from Simply Recipes

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Morning Muffins

These were not our Christmas morning muffins. This was a trial run for a possible Christmas morning muffin that I made a few weeks ago. I noticed David had barely touched them. This is when he decides to tell me he doesn't really like cranberry muffins and he affirmed this by letting the remainder of the muffins sit on the plate long after breakfast was over. Blueberry muffins would have been nothing but a few crumbs by dinner. Please, do not let this stop you from making them. I thought they were delicious, perfectly spicy and tart. They would be lovely on a New Year's Day brunch table as well. You can find the recipe in Nigella Lawson's new Christmas cookbook. It is well worth the investment, I have already made several recipes and all have been a hit. Nigella's Chocolate Chip Chili from the same book earned me third place at our chili cook off at the Wood Center.
So, what did we have for our Christmas breakfast? Just a light breakfast of fruit...
and well, some Cinnamon Rolls too. It was Christmas after all!!
But sadly, no Nigella's Christmas Morning Muffins...
Hope your holiday is filled with all the goodness of the season!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Granola Bars

Well, it has been a while once again. The new job has consumed much of my time. I try to tell them that when I worked at the Alaska Bird Observatory I used to bake before I went to work in the morning and if they would just let me come in a little later they too could get scones! I try not to cry too much about my early morning work hours as now I have great benefitssuch as being able to take classes like zymurgy and next semester ceramics. Now I will be able to make my own beer and something to drink it out of! Of course, I actually made a dentist appointment for the first time in years (I’m not confessing how many). The dentist will be a good thing since I am running around like a crazy woman in the morning and am lucky if I remember to brush my teeth!
That is where these granola bars come in handy. I have always wanted to make my own granola bars. This is another one of those items that always scared me to try and make at home. Let’s face it, there are a lot of bad granola bars out there. This always leads me to believe that the item is very difficult to do well. I made them last Sunday and put a bunch in a plastic bag and threw them in my bag to munch on throughout the week. They are the perfect thing for breakfast on the go. I think they could handle any fruit and nut combination. I used what I had on hand, but I just bought some flax seed and dried blueberries that I want to try next time.

Granola Bars
adapted from Nigella Express
1 14-fl-oz can condensed milk
2 1/2 cups thick cut rolled oats
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup sesame seeds
1 cup natural unsalted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees and oil a 9- x 13-inch baking pan.
Warm the condensed milk in a large pot over medium heat.
When milk is warm and runny remove from heat and add the rest of the ingredients, stirring to coat completely. Spread the mixture into the oiled pan and press down with a spatula to make the surface even.
Bake for 1 hour, remove, and after about 15 minutes remove from pan and let cool on a cutting board, once completely cool cut into three across and four down, to make 12 chunky bars. Stored in an airtight container they will last at least a week.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Coconut Yogurt Salad Dressing

I should have titled this post "Remembering Summer", or maybe "Not remembering Summer". Remembering that I once had a blog, I logged on today to see what fellow bloggers have been up to lately and thinking that maybe I should post something I started looking through all my saved "almost" posts of this summer. So many of them I can't remember what is in the pictures, more or less where the recipes came from. Did we even eat this summer? Where does the time go?
This was one of those dinners that we didn't eat until after 10:00 p.m. because it was still light out and we felt like we had all the time in the world. It was inspired by a salad dressing David had at our local brewery one night. It was called Coconut Yogurt dressing. When I tasted it, I knew it had potential to be so much better. I'm pretty sure theirs is just a blend of yogurt and coconut milk. A few nights later I went to work on making it my own. In my mini food processor I blended about 1/2 cup coconut milk, 1/2 cup yogurt, one teaspoon garam masala and two tablespoons of spicy mango chutney. I coated the chicken in lemon juice and then dredged it in all the same spices I use for Tofu Tikka Masala and tossed it on the grill. This I served over a bed of greens with red onion, and toasted almonds and of course to prove it was summer in Alaska, a nasturtium blossom. This was a spectacular summer meal, one of many, if only I could remember the others...

Friday, September 4, 2009

The light is fading...


Brody couldn't be happier. His nose tells him good rolls in the snow are not too far away.

Vodka Cream Sauce

When we first moved to Fairbanks I found frustration in not having the selection of cooking ingredients that were so easily accessible in Washington. Another issue was the fact that the grocery stores on our side of town seem to be even more limited in their selection. There was a certain incident in the east end Fred Meyer when exasperated I proclaimed, "I suppose we aren't supposed to eat tofu on this side of town either". Poor David could do nothing but shake his head. Over time I have adapted to these issues by ordering specialty food online (mostly spices) and learning to cook a lot of items from scratch, a journey I have shared here. My trips to the grocery store are now mostly limited to the basics of flour, sugar, milk, butter, etc...
Still, all the grocery stores in town are not equal. One has a fairly decent selection of natural foods and some specialty items as well. Now, it is still a chain store and not my usual place to shop as it is significantly more expensive. Once a month I stop by just to see if there is anything I am missing. I usually pick up some organic breakfast sausages and a few Izze sodas. During my last trip I was surprised to find a bag of orecchiette on the shelves. I remember that I had been looking for this pasta a while back, but couldn't remember why. I picked up a bag anyway and still have not figured it out. The problem with limited supplies is that by the time you find them you can't remember what you wanted them for. I decided to serve them with Vodka Cream sauce that I had also made a while back for our ricotta gnocchi. This time I was out of shallots and used 1/3 cup of onion instead and it was still just as good. I like the simple indulgence of this sauce.

*Where's the recipe you ask? I have decided unless I am presenting a truly unique recipe, I will just give you the link or reference the book it came from. I feel it is fair to give the credit where it belongs and quite frankly will save me some time and hopefully enable me to post more often.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Blueberry Muffins

I wanted to bake a cake, but blueberry muffins will have to do. Summers in Alaska are so crazy, I now understand why I didn't start this blog until September 3rd last year. Yes, today is the one year anniversary of Arctic Garden Studio. Well, the first post anyway. Despite the slow posting lately I have not given up on it. A while ago someone asked how I manage to keep going with my two blogs. How it works for me is that I don't give myself any requirements or deadlines. I post when I want to and try not to stress out about it too much. There are times when the food and creativity flows and I post every day. Other times I am just too busy, so I let it go. I am thankful for all the wonderful folks I have met through the blog, but I try not to concern myself too much with my readership numbers. I try to think of you all like good friends who wouldn't hang up on me if I hadn't called you for a month. You are certainly the reason I continue to post.
With that said, there have been many changes in my life this summer. It seems like only yesterday the summer was just beginning with my trip to Yukon Flats. It was during that trip that I realized I needed to make some serious changes in my life. I really started pounding the pavement to look for a new job. There is a time when you realize that things are never going to change and it is time to go. So I cashed in my flexible schedule, bringing my dog to work, and daily walks at Creamer's Field for a good retirement plan and medical benefits with the University of Alaska Fairbanks. It feels good to look forward to going to work every day and know that I will have a paycheck every two weeks.
I wish that my job search had not consumed the majority of our too short summer. Somehow I still managed to put away several gallons of rhubarb, blueberries, and last night I picked my first half gallon of lingonberries. So, in the quite winter months I will have plenty a time to bake of some delicious goodies. To celebrate this special day, I couldn't think of anything more Alaskan than a fresh blueberry muffin. Happy Birthday little blog!
Blueberry Muffins
Adapted from Fine Cooking

Crumble:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
Scant 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 ounces (1/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Muffins:
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. grated or ground nutmeg
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1-1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup fresh blueberries

Set an oven rack to the middle of the oven. Heat the oven to 350°F. Make the crumble: In a medium bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Add the butter and work it in with your fingertips until you have a uniform, moist crumble. Cover with plastic wrap.
Make the muffins: Butter and flour 12 regular (1/2-cup) or 6 large (1-cup) muffin tins or line them with paper liners. In a small bowl, sift together both flours, the baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Using a hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with the paddle, cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl and beat in the vanilla. On low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk in two additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Gently fold in the berries by hand. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups to almost full.
Scatter a generous amount of the crumble over the batter in each muffin cup (there may be some leftover).
Bake until the tops are golden and spring back when touched lightly and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes for regular muffins, 30 to 35 minutes for large. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Serve warm.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Blueberry Lavender Ice Cream

Over the years I have waited tables at more restaurants than I would care to admit. My last experience, I am happy to report was nearly three years ago. I was between jobs and it was the end of the season at Lake Crescent Lodge in Olympic National Park. They needed someone to work with for a couple of months, housing was included. Perfect. The only problem was I was in the middle of a terrible relationship and the other person worked there as a server as well...
The kitchen was a totally professional operation. Jamie, the head chef really cared about the meals he was sending out from the kitchen. He was pretty tough on the wait staff, but I worked hard and actually wanted to a good job. We weren't buddies, but we didn't have any issues either. Jamie NEVER let anything leave his kitchen for free. Unlike other restaurants where the employees always had their fingers in the dessert, and free cups of soup were the norm. We got our free staff meal, but everything else we paid for.
One night while previously mentioned ex-boyfriend and I were working together on a fairly busy shift, he decided he was going to walk out. This had become a nightly occurrence. He always thought that he was being screwed over by the management. It didn't matter what section this guy got, he always thought it was the worst one, he was always most miserable on the nights when he perceived my section to be better than his. On this night when he said he was leaving, as always I ignored him until later when our hostess asked where he was. Huh? He's gone, really? He actually left? A few minutes later, Jamie came to me and asked if I was ok? Then he asked me to come into his office. Then I thought, "Is he going to fire me too"? Jamie informed me that they would like to fire this guy, but they didn't want me to quit. I almost laughed out loud.
To say the least, it was one of my best nights at the restaurant. Not only did I feel a huge weight had been lifted, but I also had the best night financially because I ended up taking a bunch of extra tables as we were then one server short!
At the end of the night Jamie brought me a dish of Blackberry Lavender ice cream. It was one of my favorite desserts at the restaurant. Making this Blueberry Lavender ice cream reminded me of that night and Jamie who inspired my own Alaska version of lavender ice cream. I made mine with local honey, lavender, and wild blueberries.

Blueberry Lavender Ice Cream
Inspired by Jamison Brandt, David Lebovitz, and Lindsey Shere

1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup fresh lavender flowers
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
3/4 cup blueberry puree (recipe follows)

Warm honey and lavender flowers in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once warm and runny remove from heat and let steep for at least one hour.
Heat the milk, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed yolks back into the saucepan. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spatula. Remove from heat and stir in the honey and lavender mixture.
Fill a large bowl half way with ice and about one cup of water and place (do not immerse) a medium size bowl on top. Pour the cream into the medium bowl and set a fine mesh strainer on top. Pour the milk and honey mixture through the strainer and into the cream. Stir until cool over the ice bath. Chill the mixture overnight in the refrigerator. The next day freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. After five minutes or when the mixture has just started to freeze up slowly add the blueberry puree. Finish mixing and eat right away or store in freezer for up to three days.

To Make Blueberry Puree:
Place 2 cups of blueberries and 1/2 cup of sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until blueberries begin to release their juices and then mash with a potato masher or mix with an immersion blender. Place in refrigerator overnight.

Red Green River Regatta



Thursday, August 13, 2009

Georgeson Botanical Garden





We have been busy. For the next few days I will post the things we have done this past month in Fairbanks.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookies

The other day I saw a cookbook titled something like "50 best chocolate chip cookies". Who needs 50 chocolate chip cookie recipes? It seems like one good one would do the trick. Of course there is always the chocolate peanut butter, chocolate chocolate chip, monster cookies with chocolate chips. As far as the true chocolate chip cookies go, you really only need one recipe. I don't really have that one recipe that I go to for chocolate chip cookies. You can always go back to that old Toll House stand-by. After seeing that cookbook, I decided that maybe I should branch out. This morning I took a few sticks of butter out of the fridge to soften. Almost all chocolate chip cookie recipes call for creaming the butter and sugar together. It seems like I can never wait long enough for the butter to soften. Usually, when I want cookies I want them now! I have no ability to plan ahead when it comes to these sort of cravings. So, when I found this recipe that called for melted butter I couldn't wait to give them a try. Now, the next time I want chocolate chip cookies I won't be sitting around waiting for the butter to soften. Let me just say that these are much better than Toll House. The browned butter gives them almost a toffee like flavor. Just be careful not to burn the butter.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from
Cook's Illustrated

1 ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup granulated sugar
¾ cups packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 ¼ cups semisweet chocolate chips
¾ cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.

Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts, stir to distribute evenly.

Scoop dough into 1-2 tablespoons portions and roll into balls. Place dough about two inches apart on baking sheets. Makes about 20 cookies.

Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack to cool.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Blueberry Breakfast Biscuits

Our blueberries are so plentiful this year I was able to pull over on the side of the road on the way home last night to pick a cup for breakfast. I better start making some room in the freezer!
I will admit that the original recipe called these scones. I have been waiting to make them for nearly two months. It was originally in Bon Appetite's Cooking Life column by Molly Wizenberg. I love Molly's other scone recipe in her book A Homemade Life. I knew I had to try these ones as well, especially since the recipe originated from Standard Baking Company in Portland, Maine. David assured me that this place is good, but if you are expecting a scone, you will be disappointed. Now, let me assure you these are a delightful breakfast treat, they just are not a scone. They are some of the lightest, flakiest biscuits I have ever eaten. Full of buttery goodness, oats, and wild blueberries. Also, some of the largest scones (sorry, biscuits) I have ever seen in my life! I made them half the size the original recipe recommends. So, if you are looking for a delicious blueberry breakfast biscuit, this is the one!
adapted from Bon Appetite

Ingredients
3 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
11 tablespoons (1 stick plus 3 tablespoons) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons old-fashioned oats
1 cup fresh wild blueberries
1 3/4 cups chilled half and half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 teaspoons raw sugar

Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 350°F. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
Combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and coarse salt in processor; blend 5 seconds. Add butter. Using on/off turns, blend until mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer mixture to large bowl. Add 1 cup oats and blueberries; stir to blend evenly.
Stir half and half and vanilla in small bowl. Gradually add to flour mixture, tossing until dough just comes together to form a very moist dough.
Using 1/4-cup measuring cup for each scone, drop dough in mounds onto prepared baking sheets, spacing 3 inches apart. Sprinkle tops with remaining 3 tablespoons oats, then raw sugar.
Bake 15 minutes. Reverse sheets and continue baking until scones are golden and tester inserted into center from side comes out clean, about 12 minutes longer. (I found these took much longer to get a nice golden brown, possibly an extra 5 minutes) Transfer scones to rack and cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.


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