Really Ugly – But Pretty Tasty: Baked Moose “Empanadas”

Moose meat hand pies on a borrowed plate and a bit wonky looking. Maybe the beautiful Chignik Woodblock Mountains in the background will distract you. They are gorgeous!

We’re about one week out from the big move. That means almost all of our household goods are either waiting for us in Newhalen or they are en route care of the good ‘ol postal service. It also means there is one cook in the house who is longing for all of her mailed kitchen equipment. (Jack is being a much better sport about this.)

With what amounts to a random selection of pantry items that need to be finished and mostly borrowed kitchen items to get us through the next few days, we need to be either very creative or not think about it and just eat. Like I said, Jack is being a good sport. He has been creatively transforming the case of macaroni and cheese boxes we have for our remaining lunches by adding ingredients like rehydrated mushrooms, roasted Brussels sprouts, cans of diced tomatoes, and even the last bit of chorizo. This morning, he created a delicious hot breakfast out of the last bag of cous cous, bacon, cream cheese and toasted pecans.

With our very last pound of ground moose meat thawed in the fridge, I decided to take a turn at being cheery with this challenge and see what I could create. I thought it would be tasty to make turnovers inspired by Mongolian Khuushuur. Under a variety of local names, this type of meat-filled pastry seems to be found the world over. Our southern neighbors make a delicious version called empanadas.

Time to get to work. Yeast? Nope, mailed that. All-purpose flour? Yeah, that’s gone, too. What in the world do I have left? I gathered whole wheat flour, an egg, butter, salt, ground moose meat, Jack’s spicy seasoning mix, and a can of green chilis. Khuushuur and empanadas are both traditionally fried and are made with a bread type dough. No oil. These pastries would be baked. Based on my ingredient list, the dough was going to be of the savory pie variety. I whipped up some pie dough and stuck it in the fridge while I cooked up the filling.

When it was time to make the little meat hand pies, I realized I had no rolling pin, no parchment paper, and no pastry brush. Ugh. A greased cookie sheet did the trick sans parchment paper. And did you know that a skinny bottle of olive oil can double as a rolling pin? I didn’t either. The only disappointment was that wadded up paper towel does not really work as a pastry brush. It definitely wasted too much egg. Any ideas on that one?

At the end of the day, our hand pies were not pretty but we did wind up with a delicious dinner.  I’m still not yet as cheery and creative as Jack. Just wait till we get our kitchen set up again, that’ll cheer me up!

Baked Moose Meat Hand Pies
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp cold unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 6 tbsp cold water
  • 1 egg, beaten for brushing
Directions
  1. Whisk together flour and salt.
  2. Grate cold butter (with cheese grater) into flour mixture. Mix butter and flour together with hands or a fork. Stir in egg. Stir in water. Continue stirring until shaggy dough forms. You may need to add additional water if the dough won’t come together.
  3. Break dough into 8 pieces. Create small balls of dough and place balls in fridge while you are making the filling.*
  4. Roll the dough balls out into small thin circles.
  5. Place meat mixture in center of dough circles. Fold dough over meat filling and close up edges by using tines of a fork.
  6. Brush the tops with egg wash for a nice golden top. Cook at 375 for 18-24 minutes depending on the size of your empanadas.
  7. Serve with slices of avocado and your favorite salsa.

*I sautéed ground meat with one can of green chilis. I added a spice mix and salt to taste. Any type of filling would work inside these hand pies. See what’s in your pantry for inspiration.

Shioyaki Wild-Caught Alaska Salmon – It couldn’t be Easier, Even if You aren’t an Experienced Cook

Sea salt, olive oil and heat are the only ingredients you need to turn out great salmon every time. Particularly if you’re just getting into cooking and you try this recipe, we’d love to hear from you with any comments or questions and of course a report on how your salmon came out!

Over the years, one question has repeatedly come our way: “I really don’t do much cooking, but I’d like to be able to make salmon. Is there an easy recipe you know of?”

Not only is the answer to this question a resounding “Yes,” the recipe happens to be our favorite. I learned about shioyaki (salting and cooking) when I lived in Japan where shioyaki can refer either to charcoal grilled fish or, more commonly in home kitchens, broiling.

In addition to being the definition of simplicity, the genius of this recipe is that, unlike more elaborate recipes, the salt brings out rather than masks the flavor of the fish. This is exactly what you want when dealing with a fresh, wild-caught salmon. On the other hand, because the flavors are simple, the finished dish is easily enhanced with toppings. Try it with raspberry chipotle sauce (easily made at home) or with Mae Ploy Sweet Chili Sauce. Here’s how it’s done.

Ingredients & Preparation

  • You’ll need a broiling sheet. A standard cookie sheet works fine, but a heavier sheet is even better.
  • Salmon fillets – any species of wild-caught salmon
  • A favorite kosher salt or sea salt. We’ve found coarse Grey Sea Salt to work especially well.
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Place oven rack in center or one position below center. (This is the one “trick” you might need to experiment with. Ovens vary. So don’t be discouraged if your first attempt doesn’t work out as you expected. Adjust the rack position and go for it again! Once you have this dialed in, the rest is a snap.)
  2. Place the broiling sheet in the oven and preheat on Broil. (10 minutes is generally the right amount of time.)
  3. Meanwhile, rinse salmon fillet(s) in cold water. Pat dry with paper towel and place skin side down on cutting board.
  4. Sprinkle salt on fillet.
  5. Put a little olive oil on the hot broiling sheet – enough to cover the area where you’ll place the fillet.
  6. Place salmon fillet skin side down on prepared sheet and place in oven. It should vigorously sizzle when it touches the sheet. If it doesn’t, simply place the sheet back in the oven and continue preheating.
  7. Cooking time will vary depending on fillet thickness. 8 to 10 minutes is usually about right. An oil-like liquid will begin to emerge from the top of the fillet when it is done. Again, if your first attempt produces an undercooked or overcooked fillet, make a note, stick it on your fridge, and adjust the cooking time. If the fillet comes out overly dry on top or burnt, you probably need to lower the rack. Keep simple notes till you get it dialed in.

Fillets prepared this way are superb served on rice, on pasta, served along with tartar sauce or avocado spread as a sandwich or broken into pieces to top a superb Alaska-style pizza. Going for an added touch with a glass of wine? It’s tough to beat a lightly chilled Chardonnay.

See also:

Alaska Silver Salmon Pizza

Raspberry Chipotle Sauce Recipe

Broiled Salmon Spine: Getting the Most out of Every Salmon

 

 

 

 

 

Springtime Alaska: Who Needs Asparagus? Poached Eggs on Sautéed Fireweed Shoots

Poached egg yolk mixes with garlic-infused yogurt to make a sumptuously tangy dressing for sautéed fireweed.

When we first moved to Alaska, a friend suggested we swing by the Fireweed Festival in Trapper Creek. I’d already fallen for fireweed the previous summer during our initial visit to this great state. The love was based on this beautiful flowering plant’s visual appeal as it blanketed summertime hillsides in stunning fuchsia. Any festival evoking those images had to be good, so there was no way we’d pass up a festival in fireweed’s honor! In addition to local crafts and great live music, there was a food stall dedicated to teaching the culinary uses of this ubiquitous plant. I walked away from the stall with a new book on harvesting Alaska’s wild plants and new ideas of how to use fireweed in our kitchen. One thing that stuck with me from talking with the people at the festival is that new fireweed shoots can be used just like asparagus in any recipe. True? Absolutely! 

My internet news feed is made up mostly of recipe posts from blogs I follow. I have to tell you it is a much more gentle and uplifting type of reading than the mainstream media feed offers. Jack and I had planned to grill bacon-wrapped fireweed exactly as one would asparagus to continue testing whether all asparagus recipes work with fireweed shoots. But before we could get to that experiment, a recipe for asparagus with yogurt dressing popped up on my news feed. I immediately envisioned a recipe makeover, and with everything I needed available in my ever-shrinking, pre-move pantry, I got to work.

This dish is quick to make. I recommend preparing the yogurt dressing ahead of time to ensure that the garlic becomes infused. We served this dish as the salad course of our dinner, but it would work wonderfully as part of a light lunch or as a side dish for brunch. Make sure you have crusty pieces of sourdough bread available to sop up the extra dressing. It tastes too good to waste!

Now is the time to get out and harvest these young fireweed shoots. I like them best when they are about six inches tall and still mostly purple. The ones with an agreeable snap (just like a nice skinny asparagus stalk) when harvested (near the ground) taste best. The fireweed near our lake is now fully green and too old to harvest. A hike to higher elevations should still provide fresh young shoots to pick.

Poached Eggs on Sautéed Fireweed Shoots for Two

(recipe can easily be doubled or tripled)

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup almonds, slice and toast them, or buy them sliced and toast them
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt (strained or Greek-style if you can find it)
  • 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 pound fireweed shoots

Directions

  1. Combine yogurt, lemon juice, paprika, garlic and salt. Place in covered container in fridge. Can be made a day to a couple of hours ahead of time.
  2. Place olive oil in a medium pan over medium heat.
  3. In a separate saucepan, bring 3 cups water to a simmer. Add vinegar. Gently crack eggs into hot water being careful not to break the yolk. Cook until whites appear to be cooked through, about 3 minutes.
  4. Sauté fireweed in pan while eggs are poaching.
  5. Place fireweed on serving dish. Place poached eggs on fireweed. Drizzle with yogurt dressing. Top with toasted almonds.
  6. Serve immediately with crusty toasted sourdough bread.

Recipe inspired from The Smitten Kitchen.

Whew! Just made it! Lite Double Chocolate Brownie Cookies

Chewy, chocolatey, small and delicious. What’s not to love?

This lifestyle of picking up shallow roots and moving every few years is not for everyone. It normally suits us. We love digging deep into an interesting place, enjoying what it has to offer, and then heading off to experience a new place. This particular move is the strangest one Jack and I have experienced in our life together. Previous moves have been predicated on well thought-out decisions backed by lots of research. A move toward a new adventure – Alaska – Mongolia – is always exciting to us. A move to a place with a new culture or new food, new fishing and new photography opportunities has always been welcome. Newhalen, where we soon will be living, has a lot to offer, but the cloud of having to leave Chignik Lake has put a giant damper on our excitement. We keep reminding ourselves that Newhalen is a terrific place, complete with salmon runs, hiking in nearly pristine landscapes and the many things we love about living in the Alaska Bush. In our new home, we will get to have our lovely little fishing boat, Gillie, with us. We’ve never lived somewhere where we can launch her and have miles and miles of rivers and lakes to explore right outside our door. That in and of itself should be very appealing, right?

Gillie is one salmon-catching boat. She sleeps the two of us comfortably in her cuddy cabin. There’s even a little dining table in the cabin. Equipped with a Coleman stove, she’ll be the perfect vessel for exploring the lakes and rivers of our new home.

But this time, there’s this whole leaving business that is really a drag. We’ve both loved living in Chignik Lake. It’s been a wonderful place to settle in to. We’ve loved only having to share the scenery, the wildlife and the fishing with the few people who call The Lake home. And I’ve enjoyed working in a building that’s well kept and working with a group of students that are second to none. The students and their families here made this the most fun and the easiest teaching job I’ve ever had. We hadn’t intended on leaving yet. So, the excitement of the move and the new destination has a bit of a pall over it.

Well, nonetheless, onward and upward.

One aspect of moving I get a strange pleasure from is the challenge of using up of all of our pantry items by the move date. This batch of cookies was especially satisfying as the recipe, to the tablespoon, helped me finish off several ingredients that I had just a bit of. The purpose of this recipe was to create cookies that could be used to make ice cream sandwiches with the bag of frozen bananas I still have in the freezer. They are perfect! They are small and have just the right texture for this frozen confection. We’ve found that dolloping the banana ice cream atop the open-faced cookies seems to work best. I also think these cookies taste fantastic straight out of the freezer. The idea to keep them in the freezer so they are out of sight didn’t quite work to keep them out of mind. They turned out too good! A taste of a few of these, and the “moving cloud” dissipates a little. 🙂

To keep them “lite” on calories, the ingredients were thought out, but so were the size. I made the cookies small – about two teaspoonfuls of dough. This way two cookies, with the banana ice cream, is a satisfying dessert. (According to an online calorie calculator, these weighed in at just 45 calories per cookie.) Feel free to adjust the size to your liking. I also thought adding a splash of peppermint extract would be delicious – a la “Thin Mint” Girl Scout cookies. (I loved those straight out of the freezer!) Alas, my pantry no longer has this ingredient.

Lite Double Chocolate Brownie Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup Dutch processed cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • generous pinch salt
  • 6 tbsp vegetable oil, I used canola
  • 2 tbsp milk, I used nonfat
  • 1/4 cup low-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Whisk together the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Stir in oil, milk, yogurt and vanilla.
  4. Fold in chocolate chips.
  5. Divide dough into 32 pieces. I formed a long skinny log and chopped it into pieces.
  6. Roll pieces into balls.
  7. Evenly space out 24 balls (4 x 6) on a parchment-covered cookie sheet. If your dough balls are bigger, bake fewer at a time to allow for expansion.
  8. Bake for 9 minutes. They will look slightly underdone.
  9. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing them from baking sheet.
  10. Repeat with remaining dough balls.
  11. Store cookies in the freezer in zip-top bags to ensure freshness. Enjoy straight out of the freezer.

On the Grill: Smoky Maple Rubbed Wild Chignik Salmon and Lemon Garlic Fireweed Shoots

It’s not yet the official start of summer, but nothing feels like the season more than sitting outside in sunshine grilling our supper.

Some people say Chignik River salmon are The Best. Who are we to argue? The vacuum-packed fish we caught last fall taste like we just pulled them out of the water. We love these salmon. They are fun to fish for, delicious and are a beautiful part of this environment. We feel fortunate to have them as part of our menus at least four times a week. Yesterday, we thought we would try a smoky maple rub we were gifted awhile back. It worked perfectly on the grill, giving a nice smoky, sweet layer of flavor while still letting the salmon shine through.

The star of the meal were the fireweed shoots. If you’ve never tried these beauties, now is the time to do it. Around here, they are popping out of the ground in a plum-colored frenzy. Early in the season, the shoots can be picked and used just like asparagus. The leaves are tender and the stems have a satisfying crunch. Later in the summer, the plants will produce fuchsia-colored flowers that climb up the stalks like a calendar of the summer passing. These flowers are edible, as well. We’ve used the pink blossoms in tossed salads and have stirred them into homemade honey ice cream for an added visual pop. But I digress…

Preparing the fireweed shoots is simple. Give the shoots a thorough rinse to remove any dirt. Then mix together soy sauce, lemon and garlic to taste. Toss the mixture with the fireweed shoots. Place a couple of pats of butter beneath the shoots and another couple on top. Grill in foil until the butter is melted and the mixture is bubbling. We like our shoots pretty crunchy, so we only grilled them for about 4 minutes. And if you’ve prepared a baked potato on the side, any extra sauce from cooking fireweed the fireweed makes a delectable topping. Bon Appétit!

Better Than Butterfingers Bark

Crispy, crunchy, peanut buttery and topped with chocolate. No hydrogenated this or that. No artificial flavors or colors. What’s not to love? 

Recently, Jack and I have cut way back on the sugary treats. But we’re not crazy, we haven’t cut them completely out. We’ve been trying out a new eating style which is working really well. It’s not a fad diet. It’s simply mindful eating. Everyone knows it is healthy to eat a diet with lots of veggies, legumes and whole grains. We’ve been employing a strategy to eat a great variety of food at every meal with an emphasis on those healthy food groups. Jack’s goal has been to serve meals with at least seven different foods as the ingredients. It’s been a delicious experiment that has us feeling fueled up and satisfied.

Do sweets still fit in to this mindful eating plan? Absolutely! I have always enjoyed having something sweet at the end of dinner. I’ve been experimenting with different kinds of natural sweeteners as well as different portion sizes. Rocky Road fudge and Monster Cookie Freezer fudge were a couple of the first hits in the lineup. Aside from natural sweeteners like maple syrup, honey and dates, I still used a tried and true pantry item – granulated sugar. As long as the portions are kept small, sweets will always be part of my repertoire.

One of our favorite candy bars has always been Butterfingers. We both love the flavor combination of chocolate and peanut butter and especially love the crispy crunch that only Butterfingers have. In my quest to use up all the items in our pantry, I came across a recipe for homemade Butterfinger bars. What?!? How is possible to make that crispy crunch at home? I always thought that magic could only be created in a cauldron, or maybe a factory. 😉 Turns out, the recipe is quite simple. Katie over at Chocolate Covered Katie figured out the basics. I’ve adapted her recipe to be even simpler. No shaping bars or dipping technique needed. It’s a few minutes of stirring, some time chilling, a little bit of melting, and a moment of spreading melted chocolate and Voila! – best tasting Butterfinger bark you’ve ever made – guaranteed!

Better Than Butterfingers Bark

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 3 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 2 cups flake cereal (I used whole grain frosted flakes)
  • 2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Line a baking sheet with foil. Grease foil with butter. Set aside.
  2. Combine honey and sugar in a small saucepan.
  3. Over medium heat, bring mixture to a boil.
  4. Boil for a minute while stirring continuously.
  5. Remove pan from heat and stir in peanut butter. It will look like a paste when it’s done.
  6. Fold in flake cereal. Stir well to coat.
  7. Turn mixture out onto the foil-lined baking sheet.
  8. Press mixture until it is about 1/2 inch thick.
  9. Place bark in freezer for 30 minutes.
  10. Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler.
  11. Spread melted chocolate mixture over bark.
  12. Place bark back in freezer to set.
  13. Cut bark to portion as you like.

Recipe adapted from chocolatecoveredkatie.com

Grandma’s Secret Is Out or Cabbage Roll Soup Meets the Alaska Bush

The tang of tomatoes, the zip of lemon, and the hint of sweetness from a bit brown sugar all mixed in with cabbage and some of Alaska’s best game meat – moose. Grandma’s secret is out!

My strongest memories of my grandmother are connected with food. She lived in Queens. Meanwhile my family was bouncing around from Brooklyn out to New Mexico and back to Albany before finally ending up in California, and so we only got to see her once in a while. When we did, I remember heartily enjoying all of her culinary creations – Jewish staples like kugel, brisket, blintzes, and of course, stuffed cabbages. I don’t know if she intended to keep her recipes secret. Maybe she thought I was too young to understand them. Maybe she thought – well, I don’t know. I could only guess. Unfortunately she passed away when I was still only in my 20s. Over the years, I have tried to make a few of her standards, producing what I think have been successes. I was particularly pleased with a crock pot recipe for cabbage rolls that I came across many years ago which I thought tasted just like hers. The problem with that recipe was that it took For Ever.

Fast forward to now. Jack and I have entered a favorite time of year. It’s the time when we look in our freezers and pantry and try to use up whatever we have on hand a la the show Chopped. With bunches of carrots, heads of cabbage, a few pounds of ground moose, and way too many onions, I thought of stuffed cabbage. It’s really a perfect recipe for the bush. We lucked into a healthy amount of moose this year. (Half a moose was flown into our village from a hunting camp earlier this year…another story.) Cabbages, carrots, and onions ship reliably through the postal service from Anchorage. Even if they get stalled at our mail hub in King Salmon for days in a row, which happens regularly, these items arrive relatively unmarred. The best stuffed cabbage is made with big, beautiful leaves. That wasn’t what I had. And time. I didn’t have that, either.

I started to think about what made my grandmother’s stuffed cabbages so good. I liked the rolls. But what I especially liked the flavor, and I liked what was left on the bottom on the pot when the cabbages fell apart. Why not make just that? Turns out, this recipe has the exact flavor of my grandma’s “secret recipe” but the time and effort is cut down – way down. With a few minutes of prep, and 45 minutes of “simmer time,” this recipe is a keeper!

Stuffed Cabbage Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. moose meat (substitute lean ground beef)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium sweet onion, like Walla Walla, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 cups beef bouillon (we like Penzeys beef soup base)
  • 12 ounces tomato paste reconstituted with 2 cups hot water
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup uncooked long grain brown rice
  • 5 cups green cabbage, chopped large
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice

Directions

  1. Use a large soup pot. Place olive oil and meat in the pot.
  2. Add onions.
  3. Sauté until meat is browned.
  4. Add garlic and stir.
  5. Add broth, reconstituted tomato paste, brown sugar, salt, oregano, pepper and rice. Mix well.
  6. Add cabbage and carrots. Stir to mix.
  7. Place bay leaves in pot.
  8. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cover the pot. Cook until rice is tender, about 45 minutes.
  9. Remove pot from heat and stir in lemon juice.
  10. Let soup rest for a few minutes before serving.

Powering Up With Freezer Fudge: Rocky Road and Monster Cookie Recipes

I suppose you should wait a few minutes for these bites to thaw a bit before diving in…but who are we kidding? They are satisfying straight out of the freezer!

I was late to the banana ice cream party. It was only a few summers ago that I discovered that blending frozen bananas has the taste and texture of delicious creamy banana ice cream. I added all sorts of flavors to this fantastic base to help us keep cool during warm air conditioner-less summers in Mongolia. As a newcomer to this confection, and back on a serious workout regimen, it only just occurred to me to take this dessert and transform it to a pre or post workout snack. The new base has a combination of frozen bananas, peanut butter and maple syrup. After that, add what you like. The idea is to keep it simple, flavorful, and leaning toward healthy choices. Ahem, a few itty-bitty mini marshmallows or M&Ms won’t kill you!

I used my silicone mini muffin pan to initially freeze the treats. The cookies pop out easily and you’re ready for another batch. Simply store your freezer fudge in a freezer-safe container lined with parchment paper, and your workout snacks will be ready when you are.

Rocky Road Freezer Fudge

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 overripe banana
  • 2 tbsp real maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup Dutch Processed cocoa powder
  • pinch salt

Directions

  1. Use a stick blender or a food processor to combine and smooth all ingredients.
  2. Scoop out tablespoon-sized portions and place in a silicone ice tray or mini muffin pan.
  3. Place tray or pan in freezer until confections are solid.
  4. Pop out the confections and place them in a freezer-safe container lined with parchment paper.
  5. Power up with a couple of these before a workout, or reward yourself after for a job well-done!

We are huge fans of monster cookies, especially monster-sized monster cookies. This freezer fudge flavor is a nod to those not-so-healthy-but-oh-so-good treats. The peanut butter base is perfect with a stir-in of the same candies that give monster cookies their famous flavor and look.

Freezer Fudge a la Monster Cookie

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 overripe banana
  • 2 tbsp real maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp M&Ms candies
  • 2 tbsp white chocolate chips
  • 2 tbsp semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • pinch salt

Directions

  1. Use a stick blender or a food processor the combine and smooth peanut butter, banana and maple syrup.
  2. Fold in M&Ms and chocolate chips.
  3. Scoop out tablespoon-sized portions and place in a silicone ice tray or mini muffin pan.
  4. Place tray or pan in freezer until confections are solid.
  5. Pop out confections and place them in a freezer-safe container lined with parchment paper.
  6. Power up with a couple of these before a workout, or reward yourself after for a job well-done!

A Snack That Can’t be Beet – Bright Magenta Beet Hummus

beet hummus n

Healthy? Yes, but more importantly beautiful and delicious! Imagine this wine-colored spread on crispy crackers or as part of a vibrant plate of garden-fresh crudités.

This hummus is just as creamy and smooth as my white bean hummus recipe. My favorite thing about hummus is the flavorful marriage of garlic, lemon, and cumin. Inspired by a couple of beets in the fridge, I decided to do what beets like best – roast them. Roasting brings out the sweetness in this beautiful root vegetable. I substituted beets for the white beans in my original recipe and was really happy that the main garlic, lemon, and cumin flavors still shine through. The beets add a subtle earthy, sweet flavor. Best of all, they take the presentation through the roof with their color.

Roasted Beet Hummus

Ingredients

  • 2 medium beets
  • 1 15 oz. can garbanzo beans
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • a few dashes hot sauce. We like Cholula.
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F (190 C. Remove the stem from the beets. Scrub and wash them with cold water.
  2. Place beets in foil, drizzle with olive oil, wrap tightly and roast for one hour or until the tines of a fork pass through without resistance. They should be tender. Let cool slightly.
  3. You should be able to rub the skin off of the beets. Otherwise, use a paring knife to peel off the roasted skin.
  4. Cut beets into chunks. Place in deep bowl.
  5. Rinse and drain beans. Add to bowl.
  6. Combine lemon, cumin, garlic, hot sauce, salt and half of the olive oil with beet mixture. Use a stick blender to mix and purée hummus. This can also be done in a food processor.
  7. Process mixture until smooth, adding more olive oil to reach desired consistency.
  8. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a crack of black pepper.

 

Pretzel Dogs – or Finally, a Food Post!

Chewy, soft pretzels with a not-so subtle just-right hit of salt, stuffed with your favorite hot dog – a recipe for a delicious lunch easy to take with or one to stay in with on a snowy spring day.

Many years ago, actually just approaching ten, we decided to move to Alaska. There are many different Alaskas within this beautiful state. The one we chose to move to was the Alaska Bush, a place we knew would be challenging, fascinating and exciting and a place where we knew we would need indoors hobbies to entertain us during cold and dark winters. One of my first goals was to become a baker. To set myself up for success, I sent out hundreds of pounds of different flours, sugars, flavorings, pans, cutters, and a beautiful tapered rolling pin with inlaid bamboo for inspiration (a lovely gift from Jack).

As my baking skills improved, I graduated from bread-in-a-rice-cooker to a a bonafide bread machine. As I continued to improve my baking, I ditched the machines and really dug into the whole process of baking. During my initial education, I enlisted the help of The Great Courses and chef Stephen Durfee from the Culinary Institute of America (via the online class). For six Sundays in a row, the three of us dutifully watched these classes and then baked – with feedback from countless taste-testers. We learned how to create lattice-crusted pies, ganache-topped éclairs, and mousse-filled many layered chocolate cakes. That was just the start. By the way, if you’ve ever wanted to really learn how to bake, I highly recommend the Baking Pastries & Desserts class from the Great Courses. I also highly recommend sharing the experience with friends. It was a lovely introduction into serious baking.

Of course, spending this much quality time with friends can only make friendships grow. After completing our class, my friend Reba and I continued to bake together, share recipes and swap tastes of new creations. Pretzel dogs always remind me of Reba and those baking days in Point Hope. This recipe produces an agreeably light, airy roll and is part of my permanent rotation. Thanks to Reba for the spiral wrapping style!

Pretzel Dogs

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups milk
  • 2 tsp instant yeast
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 10 good quality hot dogs
  • coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 16 cups water

Directions

  1. Whisk milk and yeast together in a large bowl. Let stand for a few minutes until yeast starts to foam.
  2. Stir in oil.
  3. Stir in 1 cup flour and mix until well combined.
  4. Stir in salt.
  5. Mix in remaining 3 cups of flour.
  6. Turn dough out onto floured surface.
  7. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.
  8. Place dough in an oiled bowl, covered with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled, about 1 ½ to 2 hours.
  9. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  10. Cut dough into 10 equal pieces.
  11. Roll dough pieces into long snakes. Coil dough around each hot dog, pinching the end pieces of the dough to secure it.
  12. Let pretzel dogs rest while you prepare pretzel bath.
  13. Preheat oven to 400° F.
  14. In a large pot, boil 16 cups water and salt.
  15. When water is boiling, stir in baking soda.
  16. Place 2 pretzel dogs in boiling water for 30 seconds. Flip and continue to boil for 30 more seconds. Remove from water with slotted spoon and place on parchment-lined baking sheet.
  17. Repeat with remaining pretzel dogs.
  18. Sprinkle each pretzel dog with coarse salt.
  19. Bake for 20 minutes. Pretzel dogs are finished when they are a rich dark brown.
  20. Let cool for a couple of minutes on baking sheet. 
  21. Serve warm with Dijon or another good quality deli mustard and a delicious red ale.