Airy and light, but packing a powerful raspberry punch, this raspberry mousse is a delightful dessert after a rich meal.
Two of my favorite culinary pastimes are making jams and ice creams. We love to pick local berries. The usual varieties around Chignik Lake are blueberries, cranberries, crowberries, currants, and raspberries. Unfortunately, this year was a terrible year for berries. Our usual spots are yielding small amounts or no berries at all. Except for the raspberries. Years ago, someone planted a garden of raspberries and currants. The raspberries, as raspberries do, have spread out from their original patch to a nearby hill. Last year, this hill was crazy with berries. This year, it was the only place we could find a decent amount of berries of any kind. So this winter portends many creations featuring the delicious raspberry.
Today’s recipe stemmed from my other joy – ice cream. Many of our favorite ice creams are the custard type, requiring several egg yolks. This tends to leave us with quite a bit of leftover egg whites at times. What to do? Omelets are good, up to a point. I’ve made batches of meringues, too. But this time, I wanted to do something different. What about whipping the egg whites into a foamy mousse?
This is a simple recipe that can be made in minutes and is best whipped up right before it’s eaten. The first time I made it, I whipped up heavy cream to top it off. That was good, but a little too heavy for this airy-light dessert. Today’s version is topped with a whipped topping made from nonfat powdered milk and ice water. It, too, must be made just before serving. Drizzled with a little raspberry jam, this mousse makes for a light and delicious dessert fit to end a beautiful feast.
Light and Airy Raspberry Mousse
- 1/2 cup egg whites (or whites from 4 eggs)
- 4 tsp granulated sugar
- 4 tbsp raspberry jam
- whipped topping
- Whip egg whites until stiff peaks are formed.
- Add sugar to whites and continue to whip until well mixed.
- Fold in raspberry jam.
- Divide egg white mixture into two parfait glasses.
- Top with whipped topping.
Instant oatmeal packets – overly sticky-sweat on their own – can be transformed into moist, tasty, healthy breakfast treats.
I really hate to see food wasted. So when we recently discovered several instant oatmeal packs fated to be thrown out, I grabbed them up thinking they might make decent breakfast fare for backpacking. Unfortunately, as it turns out the oatmeal is way over-processed and there’s far too much sugar. So I began thinking about how else they might be used. Muffins! I added leftover trail mix to the batter as well as to the topping to add some crunch and flavor. Moist and flavorful, these muffins along with some fruit and freshly brewed coffee make for a quick and delicious breakfast. In fact, we’ve found ourselves snacking on them throughout the day!
Maple and Brown Sugar Oatmeal Muffins
- 3 tbsp all purpose flour
- 3 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 cup nuts, chopped coarse
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 packets flavored instant oatmeal
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/4 cup milk
- 3/4 cup plain yogurt
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 tbsp real maple syrup
- 1 cup trail mix, chopped coarse
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease 12-muffin cup tin.
- In a small bowl, combine all streusel ingredients. Mix with fork until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Break larger pieces. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, add first 5 muffin ingredients. Mix together using a whisk.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, yogurt, oil, vanilla and syrup.
- Mix wet ingredients into dry.
- Fold in trail mix.
- Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin. Each cup will be about 2/3 full.
- Sprinkle streusel topping on each muffin.
- Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. When done, a wooden pick inserted into center of muffin will come out clean.
- Let cool in pan on wire rack for 5 minutes before serving.
Looking to expand my cookie recipe collection, I bought a new baking recipe book a couple of weeks ago. I found a beautiful book which boasted over 150 interesting cookie ideas. After reading the book cover-to-cover, I decided to try a layered chocolate biscuit. It was a disaster. The biscuit dough completely and totally fell apart when I rolled it out and there seemed to be no way to salvage it. I really hate wasting anything, so I baked the crumbs of dough anyway figuring that if they tasted good, I’d find a way to put them to good use. Well, they did taste good, and so for several days they sat on the counter in an air-tight container awaiting inspiration.
This past weekend I reached for my tried and true Williams-Sonoma Baking Book. The book fell open to a beautiful picture of a pie with a deep brown cholatey crust and a creamy pink filling. Raspberry cream pie – of course! As luck would have it, we still have a good supply of frozen raspberries from last summer’s berry picking. Raspberries and chocolate are a perfect match, in my book.
What a delight! The look of this lovely pie certainly suggests Valentine’s Day, but any day would be a good day for this light, airy dessert. I think the best way to describe the flavor is to imagine a 50/50 bar, otherwise known as a Dreamcicle – creamy vanilla ice cream in the middle surrounded by a slightly tart, fruit exterior, usually orange. This pie filling has that same creaminess with a slight tang of sour from the fresh raspberries. The crunch of the chocolate crust provides the perfect textural counterbalance. Next time you want to tell someone you love them, make them a raspberry cream pie!
Raspberry Cream Pie
- 1 1/4 cups chocolate cookie crumbs
- 5 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 3 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 1 package (2 tsp) unflavored powdered gelatin
- 2/3 cup natural raspberry juice or fresh raspberry purée
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
- Place oven rack in the middle of oven and preheat to 350° F (180° C).
- In a medium bowl, combine chocolate cookie crumbs, butter, and granulated sugar. Stir until all is evenly mixed.
- Press the cookie crumb mixture into bottom of 9-inch pie pan or springform pan.
- Bake until firm, about 5 minutes.
- Let crust cool on wire rack.
- Pour cold water into a saucepan. Sprinkle with gelatin and let sit until gelatin softens and swells (about 5 minutes).
- Heat gelatin over medium heat. Stir until it is clear and fluid.
- Stir gelatin mixture into raspberry juice. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, and salt until pale yellow. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat or whisk the cream until thick, soft peaks form.
- Add egg mixture to whipped cream. Whip until smooth.
- Add raspberry mixture to cream mixture. Whip until smooth.
- Pour filling into the crumb crust. Even out with a rubber spatula.
- Refrigerate until the filling is cold and firm (4-6 hours).
- Let the pie stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes before serving.
- Serve topped with sweetened whipped cream and fresh berries.
Packed with raisins, pecans and puréed carrots, this is a tasty way to enjoy a serving (or two) of carrots!
Living out in bush Alaska, there are certain ingredients that are a luxury in our pantry – like cream cheese. With recent outdoor temperatures agreeably mimicking a nicely chilled fridge, it was time to mail order dairy items requiring colder temperatures. Our here in Chignik Lake, Alaska, we’ve been relying heavily on the wonderful services of the mail order department at the Anchorage Fred Meyer (Debarr store). About every two weeks, we email a grocery list to the store and within four to five days, we receive our items carefully wrapped or zip-top bagged for a nominal packing fee. A few weeks ago, we received heavy whipping cream, cream cheese and sour cream all nicely chilled in the belly of a little bush plane. Culinary feats take a bit of planning ahead, but with the cooperating weather, we can get most of what we need out here in tiptop condition. I can’t speak highly enough of our mail order friends in the Debarr Fred Meyer store!
If you’ve been following along, you’ll know that I periodically bake for my students. This has now become a time-honored tradition that has followed me through several schools. Last week, one of my students requested a cake for our “bake sale” (students can spend tickets they earn in class on a variety of rewards, including my baked creations). After my students polished off a bag of trail mix packed with raisins and nuts last week, I was confident that a carrot cake stuffed with nuts and raisins would be healthful and would be well-received by my young customers. Ok, and I like carrot cake, too, so I picked up my trusty Williams-Sonoma Baking Book to see what they had to say on the subject. Every recipe I’ve tried in this book has come out fantastically. The carrot cake recipe looked delicious. The one difference I noticed is that it called for puréed instead of shredded carrots. Pumpkin purée is a favorite, so why not a purée of carrots? Turns out the purée adds more moisture and the carrot flavor is slightly sweeter. I modified the recipe a bit and was highly pleased with the result. The cake was moist and smooth. The texture was only improved by the chopped nuts and raisins. What did the students say? They loved it! They especially liked the spice and the frosting, of course. If you won’t believe the kids, all the adults I shared the cake with agreed it was delicious!
Spiced Carrot Cake with Rich Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
- 3/4 lb carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices
- 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- generous pinch salt
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp mace (or substitute nutmeg)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/3 firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 3/4 cup pecans, chopped coarse
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
- cream cheese frosting (see recipe below)
- Boil carrots until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and let cool.
- Purée the carrots with a blender, stick blender or food processor. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180° C). Line the bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and mace.
- In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, brown sugar, milk and butter.
- Whisk the flour mixture into the egg mixture.
- Whisk in the carrot purée.
- Fold in the pecans and raisins.
- Pour batter into square baking pan.
- Bake 45 – 50 minutes in preheated oven. Cake will be lightly browned and wooden pick inserted into middle of cake will come out clean when cake is done.
- Let cake cool on a wire rack.
- Run a knife around edge of pan. Invert cake onto serving plate. Peel off parchment paper.
- Frost cake and serve right away.
Rich Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
- 4 oz. cream cheese
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar
- 3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Using a mixer, beat all the frosting ingredients on medium speed until mixture is totally smooth and well-mixed.
- Alternatively, hand-mix all the frosting ingredients until smooth and totally mixed using a rubber spatula.
For lunch or dinner, on a cold winter’s day nothing beats a bowl of agreeably slippery udon noodles served in piping hot miso soup. The trick is finding the right bowl.
Ramen, soba, udon – we are big fans of Asian noodles. In Mongolia our apartment came ready with two perfectly-sized bowls for serving up this kind of fare. Back in America, finding the right bowls proved to be much more of a challenge than we anticipated. The average soup/cereal/pasta bowl isn’t big enough, and the average serving bowl is too big.
With a bit of persistence we found just what we were looking for. Mrs. Lin’s Kitchen carries beautiful karakusa swirl noodle bowls in classic white and classic black. These bowls are made in Japan and reminiscent of higher-end noodle shops there. Karakusa is a traditional arabesque design of repeating swirls popular in Japanese ceramics. The bowls are simultaneously elegant and sturdy. Best of all they’re large enough to fill up with a true noodle soup meal.
And the people at Mrs. Lin’s know how to pack fragile items. Here in Chignik Lake, our post office is just a two-minute walk from our house – but it can be a treacherous walk, especially on days such as yesterday when the road and footpaths were covered in hard ice. On the return trip, my feet went up and I came down – hard – as did the box containing our brand new noodle bowls. I was fine, but I dreaded what I might find when I opened the box. We needn’t have worried. In fact, we don’t think we’ve ever seen anything packed quite so well.
Jack’s Mix: Nine herbs, spices and seasonings create a blend that adds deep flavor and an agreeable spike of heat to pumpkin soup, chicken breasts, pork, broiled salmon fillets, moose meat pizza and more.
Every kitchen should have a few items like this in stock – a house dressing, a specialty dipping sauce, or a proprietary spice or herb blend. This is “the secret:” the bottle that invariably gets emptied first, the jar that has to be replenished again and again while other similar items languish with their contents intact.
In the case of Jack’s Mix, sure, there are a wide variety of commercial rubs available, and most of them are quite tasty. But we wanted something a little smokier in flavor and with a certain zip that would best compliment our style of cooking. And since we prefer to add salt as a separate item in cooking, we wanted a salt-free blend. So we came up with our own blend from a handful of ingredients we always have on hand.
Our message in this post is to encourage you to give it a try. Pick something you use frequently – salsa, an Italian herb blend, barbecue sauce, salad dressing or a spicy rub and instead of continuing to purchase Brand X at the store, start experimenting with your own creation. It’s fun, you’ll likely learn something valuable about the way flavors work together, and when a guest exclaims, “This _____ is fantastic! What kind is it?” You can smile and casually reply, “It’s mine, just a little something I threw together.”
See below for recipes for salmon roe, lox and buckwheat blinis.
Upon arriving in Chignik Lake last summer, one of our first orders of business was to stock our freezers with enough salmon to see us through the coming months. Fortunately, catching plenty of Reds and Silvers was no problem as hundreds of thousands of wild salmon ascend the Chignik River from summer through fall. Although the Sockeye (Red Salmon) roe is somewhat smaller than that of other species, it nonetheless cures into a beautifully translucent ikura that tastes as good as it looks. Coho fillets (Silver Salmon) are our favorites for making lox. Separated by a slice of cream cheese, garnished with a wisp of nori and arranged on a savory buckwheat blini, these appetizers are perfect as Super Bowl party snacks or as a pre-dinner hors d’œuvre complimented with champagne or fine sake (酒).
Ikura: Curing Salmon Roe
Salmon Lox or Gravlax
- 1/3 cup buckwheat flour
- 2/3 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- generous pinch salt
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 2 eggs, whisked
- 1 tbsp butter, melted
- additional butter for griddle
- Whisk together flours, baking powder and salt.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together milk, eggs and melted butter.
- Whisk wet ingredients into dry.
- Heat griddle and coat lightly with butter.
- Drop a tablespoon of batter onto griddle. Repeat with additional tablespoons.
- Cook for about 2 minutes, small bubbles will form on top of blini, like pancakes.
- Flip blini and cook an additional minute on flipped side.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.