Archive of ‘Life in Alaska’ category

Wannabe Green Thumb

Alaska Grown Raspberries

I am not a good gardener.  I kill a lot of plants.  The most productive plant in my yard are the raspberry bushes because they have nothing to do with me.  They grow back every year, rain waters them, I pick them and eat them and it happens again next year.  My big plan is to successfully go blueberry picking this year.  I am always too late and I end up crowberry picking.  Everyone goes crazy during blueberry season up here, no one shares “their spot” and if you are a couple days late, forget it.  Crowberries are fine, they are more tart and seedy and not great on their own, but I use them the same as I would blueberries.

Tomatoes in greenhouse

I do have my greenhouse that turns into a jungle every year, sometimes I’m afraid to go in there because something will brush against my leg and I will think it’s spider.  Sometimes it is.  But I’m being brave because I have tomatoes coming in and that’s about the best thing ever.  I even have a jalapeño, we shall see about that one.

kale

My other spot is the raised bed, this year its kale and Swiss chard.  Other years I have done carrots, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, turnips, beets and lettuce.  I like the greens because you can pick the leaves you need and more grows back.  The carrots and turnips were so great, but after months of waiting for them and only getting maybe a few dozen for the season I wanted a higher yield.  If I had more space/time/motivation it might work better.  But this year the greens are pokey, I think maybe because it’s been so dry, they are made for Alaska greens, meaning not hot/dry summers.  They have always been super happy during the rainy season, and if you remember from above I am not good with plants.  However, it is beyond satisfying to make your own meals with produce that you have grown yourself.  If you haven’t tried, get yourself a big pot and go for it!

Summer Days

Backyard

These days are involving less cooking, not necessarily a bad thing.  We have had some really warm days up here, meaning no oven use.  It is also means I have close to no energy, being 39+ weeks pregnant now.  I helped the husband make toast with Fire Island bread this morning and rinsed some strawberries, that’s something.  He scrambled eggs with spinach and goat cheese

Husband cooking eggsbreakfast

If you happen to be looking for some good store bought eggs, I recommend Vital Farms.  Their eggs are super flavorful and one of the highest rated eggs by the Cornucopia Institute based on sustainable, family run, humane farming practices.

Vital farms egg

A good egg

I am working less and less so that should mean more time to garden and blog and organize, and be nesty.  But no, it means thinking about all the things I should be doing but can’t get the motivation to do because I don’t know where to start.  I did make a to do list, and yes there are things crossed off.

What’s left:

1. Finish cleaning out fridge

2. Organize stuff to donate/sell

3. Finish writing thank you cards for baby shower (they are coming)

4. Do work paperwork (I plan on putting this off for a long time)

5. Blog

 

I have accomplished things like paying bills, making some freezer meals, washing the sheets (yes I had to put the on The List).

Kitchen remodel

As much as I want this baby out, we still have a gaping hole in the kitchen, but it’s not as bad as it looks.  The main part is done, and we can cook, clean and eat in it, what else is there to do in a kitchen?  The husband is now building a pantry that will sit behind the fridge, then we should be pretty much done.  If you decide to remodel your home, the general rule is that it will take at least double of what you think it will, even if you have already accounted for that.  So if you think 2 months, but maybe it will take 4 because things take a while, it will be more like 4-6.  We were initially thinking 3, maybe more.  It’s been almost 8.

Remodeling kitchen with cat

Cooking Binge Time

Blackberry Galette

I was almost a little sad to go on vacation, but as I was looking out the window watching snow fall I became less sad.  The husband and I haven’t learned to appreciate the art of the stay-cation, so I’m cooking my heart out while I can because I have a kitchen sink with a disposal and a dishwasher too!  No more cleaning black beans out of the sink while I brush my teeth.

Preparing Ricotta Gnocchi

I am instead learning about convection baking and experimenting with the Pie setting on the oven.  Yes and there is a Pizza setting too.  Aren’t we fancy?  Say yes.

Galette in KitchenI made ricotta gnudi from my Gourmet Today cookbook which is one of my favorites, I ended up making a quick marinara from the next recipe for fresh manicotti.  The galette I made by making a simple all butter pie crust, doing about 2/3 wheat flour and no sugar, I did a little egg wash and coarse sugar around the edge.  Filling is just 5 cups blackberries, 3/4 cup sugar, couple teaspoons vanilla, a bit of cinnamon (no I didn’t measure).  It’s simple, rustic, the wheat flour gives it a little hearty nuttiness that balances the tart and sweet of the blackberries.  I suggest homemade vanilla ice cream as a serving suggestion.

 

Cooking Rocitta GnocchiThere has also been: cinnamon rolls, chocolate cupcakes, ribs, collard green rolls (plan on recipe post for that), sourdough bread, banana barley muffins, kale chips, goat cheese souffle to name a few.

Future plans: carrot cake, coconut cake, waffles, oven fries, raspberry pie.  I should make some vegetables too…

A Lazy Idiot

Flourless Chocolate Cake

I planned never to have to say this, but I have neglected my blog and been lax on the posting.  I had the time, I even did some cooking, but I really just wanted to eat my food.  The kitchen has been up and down, and I think now is definitely at an up.  Meaning I can cook in the room that is supposed to be a kitchen.  There is like a stove and a cook-top and some sort of cabinets.  It also looks really good.  The husband and I like to stand in there at night and just stare at it.  It’s not done, and it’s not perfect but it’s getting there.

Chocolate Cake in Kitchen

I have been more motivated to cook, especially with multiple burners and an oven.  But I am still washing dishes in the bathroom so now is not yet the time to go crazy.  I’ve been holding back on the my deep, primal urge to bake a cake.  Until today as I was sitting on the floor staring straight on at my new oven (really 2 years old, but sitting unused in the shed) and decided it was time.  Nothing crazy, I will save my carrot cake with apricot and cream cheese frosting with layers of something curd for later.  So of course David Lebovitz to the rescue again.  I have been eyeing his chocolate idiot cake for a while.  So few ingredients but the combination cannot be wrong.  I of course did not have enough bittersweet chocolate, so used some unsweetened baking chocolate and added a touch more sugar.  Then I added some salt, and maybe some bourbon.  I did not use a springform pan in the water bath because I decided it was too hard, that is what makes it lazy idiot.  Fitting that I have also been too lazy to write blog posts.

Flourless Chocolate Cake with gelato

Banana Cream Pie with Salted Caramel Whipped Cream

 

Banana Cream PieI don’t really like banana cream pie, well I didn’t before.  But when you are pregnant sometimes the urge strikes.  Doesn’t hurt that it happens to be Pi(e) day, a very special one on 3.14.15!  When I think of banana cream pie I think of the cafeteria at the hospital, with its rotating dessert case.  Gritty chocolate puddings with cool whip and sprinkles.  They had been sitting long enough that the sprinkles were starting to dissolve and dye the cool whip in bright neon splotches.  Then the banana cream pie rotated slowly, beige, soggy and sad.

Banana Cream PieBut now for some reason, I think of it as comfort food.  If you have read my previous post then you will know why I might need some comfort food.  Like if you broke up with your boyfriend and you were upset and went to see your favorite aunt, she would give you a slice of this.  No, she didn’t bring it home from the hospital, she made it.  Made it with love for someone who needs comforting.

Graham cracker crust for banana cream pieCustard for banana cream pieThe recipe uses a crust made from honey graham crackers, the ones I used were Annie’s bunny grahams, because that’s what I could find at the store.  It’s what makes shopping at your small local grocery store fun.  I also liked the less grahamy flavor.  I crushed the crackers bunnies using a plastic baggie and a glass.  This makes a coarser and more irregular crumb and is more work, but meh.  Sometimes I am willing to go through tedious extra work if it involves using less brain power to find a quicker way.  This recipe makes a lot of crust, so the extra crumbs I toasted on a baking sheet on the side and added on top for a little crunch.

Banana Cream Pie

 

The filling is a vanilla custard with vanilla bean and extract, and just a touch of brandy.  I used store bought salted caramel sauce because I am still mad at caramel for being so easy in the beginning and then turning on me.  I also don’t want to wash crystallized caramel out of my pan in the bathroom.

Filling Banana Cream PieRecipe adapted from Epicurious

Banana Cream Pie with Salted Caramel Whipped Cream

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups honey graham crumbs
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (I used 2%)
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon brandy
  • 4 ripe bananas peeled and sliced into 1/4" rounds
  • 2-3 tablespoons salted caramel sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups cold whipping cream

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 fahrenheit.
  2. Combine crumbs, cinnamon, sugar and butter in a bowl and mix until resembling coarse sand.
  3. Put in a 9" pie plate and press around bottom and sides evenly. If you have extra crumbs put them on a cookie sheet.
  4. Bake crust and crumbs in oven about 10 minutes. Let cool.
  5. Whisk together sugar, cornstarch and salt in a saucepan. Gradually whisk in cream, milk and egg yolks.
  6. Cut vanilla bean in half lengthwise, scrape out the seeds and add to custard along with vanilla bean.
  7. Heat on medium high heat, while stirring until thickened, about 6-8 minutes.
  8. Remove from heat, stir in butter, vanilla and brandy.
  9. Let cool until warm to room temperature, stirring occasionally, remove vanilla bean.
  10. Add about a cup of custard to cooled crust, layer half the bananas, then another layer of custard and remaining bananas. Add last of custard over top.
  11. Let set in the fridge for 6-8 hours.
  12. Before serving prepare whipped cream by chilling cream, bowl and whisk or beaters.
  13. Place caramel in bowl and pour cream over top.
  14. Stir initially to mix togeter then beat on high until soft peaks but do not overbeat.
  15. Spread over pie, use extra caramel to drizzle over top. Spread crust crumbs on top and serve.

Notes

This pie will keep in the fridge for a day or two covered in plastic wrap.

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Banana Cream Pie

A Tile Backsplash with Grilled Cheese and Bolognese

Marble Tile Backsplash

This is what my days are looking like.  My temporary kitchen is a mish-mash of various meals in progress.  Either that or it sits empty while we eat our takeout around the coffee table.  Today I have a tomatoey bolognese simmering in the slow cooker, recipe from The Kitchn.  The hotplate is grudgingly at work making a grilled cheese.  I get to take a break from the tiling because I am the food provider.  I am glad for the breaks, a rest is needed for my tired feet and aching back.  I rinse the marble dust and dried up mortar off my fingers, stir the bolognese and rotate the sandwiches in the skillet.  If not rotated, on side will remain soft and pale while the other becomes black and crisp.

Bolognese

Kitchen Mess

Our counter tops are somewhere between Indiana and Seattle, they have estimated they will be here either March 9th or 11th, I don’t believe them, but we will see.  So far the husband’s estimate of tiling time of 19 hours seems to be off, but unfortunately in the wrong direction.  At this point we are maybe 28% done, with about 16 hours of work put into, you can probably do the sad math.  But after that all that is left is building and painting cabinets by hand, installing them, installing the counter tops, installing appliances, painting, building the kitchen island, and building a light fixture.  That’s ok though, because we have both decided that this will be the most amazing kitchen that has ever existed in the existence of kitchens.

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