Glazed root vegetables

Glazed Root Vegetables: (In this case either carrots or sweet potatoes—we need some color on that plate.) Root vegetables are always available. This version uses a touch of brown sugar to add sweetness and a scraping of fresh ginger to provide a kick in the pants. (That was truer than her readers would ever know, she thought.) 1 lb of either sweet potatoes or carrots—peeled and cut into small moon shaped pieces. 2 TBL butter About an inch of peeled fresh ginger, grated with a microplane grater. 1 cup of either orange juice or apple juice 1 cup of chicken stock Bring the liquids to a boil in a pot with a tight fitting lid. Dump your veggies in. Cook until tender with the lid on. When just fork tender—use a slotted spoon to remove the half moons. Allow the liquid to boil down until it’s about 1/2 cup. Add butter, brown sugar and ginger. Return vegetables to pot and stir to coat with glaze. It’s better if this isn’t done ahead of time. The texture suffers. This dish is all about balance—sweet and spicy—familiar and unusual. Absolutely worth the effort.

Gravy Train

Gravy Train: While your turkey rests before carving, spoon about 6 TBL of drippings out of the roasting pan into a saucepan. Add 4 TBL flour and stir vigorously over low heat, a wooden spoon may be traditional (those things are incredibly useful—I suggest you have half a dozen) but I find a whisk works best for this. Pour in two cups of stock and stir constantly. It will take on the texture of wall paper paste, but what you are doing is getting rid of lumps. Add stock in 1 cup increments until it’s the consistency you want. It will probably take five cups. If you happen to have an open bottle of white wine around (and while preparing the biggest meal of the year, I highly recommend it) add about 1/2 cup. If you make it too thin just simmer it for a few minutes. Season with salt pepper and minced garlic.

A Menu To Be Thankful For

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The thing about Thanksgiving is this—the magazines that give you menus don’t seem to understand that you already have a menu. The same one your grandmother made. Many of the ideas they offer are great, but it doesn’t matter, since you are not going to follow them. That being said, I do have some ideas on how you can bridge the gap between what you will actually do, and what you think maybe you should do. Appetizer: We will make crab cakes; this is more for my parents who don’t eat crab as often as we do. Soup: Here’s the thing. Pumpkin soup is delicious. But we are having pumpkin pie. I love me some pumpkin, but does it need to bookend the meal? Allow me to answer that—No.

Appetizer: We will make crab cakes; this is more for my parents who don’t eat crab as often as we do.

Soup: Here’s the thing. Pumpkin soup is delicious. But we are having pumpkin pie. I love me some pumpkin, but does it need to bookend the meal? Allow me to answer that—No. No it shouldn’t. The pilgrims, who were not known for being picky eaters, had a famous rhyme “Pumpkin in the morning and pumpkin at noon, if it were not for pumpkin we would be undone” (apparently what qualified as a rhyme was very different in the 1500s). They were starving, and they got sick of it. So, the pie will be quite enough. Unless you have a familial or cultural need to serve a specific soup—save that for another meal.

Salad: Oh come on—there is no room on your plate for salad. If you are having a formal “do” you could do separate courses, but you will already have plenty of dishes to do, so skipping it is quite alright. Let’s get to the main event:

The menu Crab cakes- Dry brined turkey- Stuffing- Gravy- Mashed potatoes -Improved green bean casserole- Glazed sweet potatoes (or carrots)- Cranberry sauce- Pumpkin pie—You will, of course, serve this with whipped cream. For a technique that will let you make your whipped cream the day before consult the index of the blog. For the love of God, do not even consider using non dairy topping. Did the Pilgrims subsist on four kernels of corn a day so that you could glop non dairy topping on your pie? Did your relatives come over here on crowded ships so that you could glop non dairy topping on a pie? Did we land at Normandy so that you could glop non dairy topping on your pie? The answer to each of these is a resounding “no.” Have some respect. Whip the cream. Here in Alaska many people also eat venison for Thanksgiving. This is probably as traditional a Thanksgiving meal as is humanly possible. The first Thanksgiving included venison (brought by the Native American guests) corn and pumpkin—although not as pumpkin pie, the pilgrims had no sugar. We do, and we are thankful for it. That morning Killian will go hunting and so we might eat venison the day after—but not on the third Thursday of November. Embrace whatever is the tradition in your locale or your family.

The stuffing conundrum

The stuffing conundrum. Okay, so I once spent weeks working out the perfect stuffing recipe. It was not a bad project for a lovelorn girl, comforting, but demanding enough to keep my mind busy. Then I got an email from a certain Alaskan wildlife biologist and everything changed. So, I know how important stuffing is. Love the stuff, in fact. However, there is no way around it—stuffing is evil. It harbors bacteria because it doesn’t quickly cook through when nestled in the bosom of our turkey. Take heart, my lovelies- all is not lost. You will make your stuffing, nestle it into a baking dish and then drape chicken wings over the top of it all before you cook it. Wings are cheap—they are also full of fat and collagen so as they cook they render the same richness that being inside your turkey would do. Only this is better since the wings will lend themselves to all of the stuffing, not just the 1/2 cup that you could fit into the cavity AND it won’t have slowly bathed in a not hot enough to destroy salmonella sauna. Win-win. To begin the stuffing, use a small ladle to remove some fat from the pan your turkey is roasting in—do NOT try this with a bulb syringe—wanna know how I know? Turns out boiling liquids will shoot from that contraption like a shark after a skinny dipper, only not as pleasant. It will go everywhere, and if you are lucky enough to be wearing a pair of shoes, you will avoid going to the hospital, but how many pairs of cute clogs have to be sacrificed to this monster? Learn from me, people. You want about one-half cup of fat in the pan—see the exact recipe on the blog. If you want, this can be made days ahead of time—but if it’s not days ahead of time and you are up against the wall—have the broth boiling when you add it, it will make it cook much faster. Now—do the chicken wing fandango, I explained above and you are good to go.

Life will get better, sister, I promise: Stuffing Two large onions Diced finely About 6 stalks of celery-finely chopped (celery does not get enough love in the world— always add more celery) 12 cups of stale bread cubes—you can buy them, although if you do, get the unseasoned ones. The seasoned ones smell like the attic of an old lady who collects postcards from circuses circa 1910. I prefer to use a firm bakery loaf. Cut off the crusts and then take the slices and stack them and dice into small cubes. Allow to dry on a baking sheet over night (or up to a few days). 3 TBL finely minced fresh sage 3 cloves garlic—I use my microplane grater, but if you want to use a garlic press, you can. Chicken broth/vegetable broth—either will work—about nine cups, but the moisture content of your bread will be a factor. Add the the onions to the hot fat in your pan and turn the heat way way down. Throw in a sprinkle of salt and stir often. We want golden—not burnt. When the onions are soft, toss in the celery and stir for a few minutes. Remove from heat and toss in the bread cubes, garlic and sage. Stir vigorously—once you add liquid it will be much harder to distribute anything in the mass of damp stuffing. Once everything is mixed up—add your liquid; start with six cups. Then let it sit a minute and see if it seems to need more. Add it in 1/2 cup increments and watch it for a bit. By the time it is done, your breasts are no longer plump pillows. And yet, the flavor of stuffing cooked inside the bird is simply unbeatable. There is a lusciousness a bit of crispiness on some parts that are exposed to the hot air and a depth of flavor that only meat juices can provide. What to do, what to do? Wings to the rescue—yup—chicken wings. The frozen ones are fine for this— although they need to be thoroughly thawed—and patted dry; no point adding a lot of salmonella carrying chicken water to our magnificent stuffing. Your stuffing can be made days before and stored covered in your fridge. An hour before you want to eat; you will spoon your stuffing into a wide flat baking dish (sprayed with cooking spray, of course) then you will lay the chicken wings side by side on the stuffing and place the whole thing in your oven. Hopefully, the turkey will be getting its last forty minutes of cooking at the same time. The wings will brown and drip gorgeousness unto your savory cubes of feast worthy yumminess. Should the wings still be pale and floppy as a beach goer in April—simply run it under the broiler while the turkey rests. You want brown. Now, set the wings aside (you can add them with your turkey carcass to the stock that you will be making, or give them to a starving nephew who is exceptionally appealing). There. No salmonella. No spooning steaming stuffing out of a cavity not being enough to hold all of the stuffing so you have some in a baking pan any damn way. Gravy Train: While your turkey rests before carving, spoon about 6 TBL of drippings out

Whiskey punch for Carter and Anna

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This could properly be called a switchel- slightly fermented alcoholic drink that is used to quench thirst when people are out in the heat. Most Switchel recipes are not very pleasant to modern palates, so this is a variation.  Lemons are a staple in our kitchens, but 100 years ago they were an expensive exotic fruit.  Anna is more likely to  have flavored  hers with mild  vinegar, made from apple cores.  Carter would tie a cord around the neck of the bottle and lower the bottle into a quickly moving stream to chill it. On the off chance that you dont have a swiftly moving creek in your kitchen, the fridge will work just fine.

1 cup of whiskey

2 cups of very strong black tea(use 4 tea bags for two cups of boiling water)

2/3 cup of honey. – you will really taste the honey here, so it’s worth it to sample different nice honeys- this is not the place for the plastic bear….

1 thinly sliced lemon

stir honey into the still hot tea.   Add a sliced lemon allow to cool to room temperature and stir whiskey in.  This is best served very cold when someone else is driving you home.

 

Roasted potato salad for Heidi

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This is a great potato salad for a picnic- since it doesn’t contain any mayo it’s less likely to harbor salmonella… And it’s hard to not like that.

1 LB of small potatoes, skin on- red skinned or small yukons- cut into small pieces

8 cloves of garlic

1/2- 2/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives (try the olive bar of your most expensive/crunchy supermarket, to score some already pitted)

olive oil

grainy mustard

sturdy greens(arugula, radicchio, baby kale- or a mix)

Drizzle potatoes and garlic with olive oil- In a cast iron pan, or a baking sheet roast in hot oven (400*) until the potatoes are brown and cooked through. Remove garlic from pan and set aside.   In your food processor combine mustard(start with 3 TB,)  1/4 cup of olive oil and the garlic. Pulse.  When the dressing is smooth(ish) Add the olives and pulse until they are chopped.  While the potatoes are still piping hot, combine the potatoes and the dressing.  This can be served at room temperature, or chilled.  Mix the  dressed potatoes with several handfuls of sturdy greens. If you are picnic bound, spoon into mason jars and screw lids on.

https://casscooks.com/2016/06/07/a-picnic-with-friends/

 

A picnic with friends!

Sunstrokes is available!!!  

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To celebrate I’ve planned a picnic-perfect for the fourth of July. I’ve whipped up some of Hazel’s roast beef sandwiches, Meredith and Paolo brought Tiramisu parfaits, Dom and Heidi brought along a roasted potato salad. Carter and Anna contributed a whiskey punch-

I cannot suggest that you invest in some mason jars enough. Seriously. They are easy to pack, and can be used over and over again for all sorts of jobs.   they are breakable, but they are pretty darn sturdy, so as long as you don’t fling one onto the sidewalk you should be ok.   Buy some inexpensive dish towels to use as napkins- they are big, absorbent and add a touch of color.Those little wooden spoons can be found anywhere- Target and Jo Ann’s both carry them. Somehow taking  dirty cutlery home to wash seems like drudgery, I’m sure there is something profound in there about how spoiled I am, but I have been sampling the whiskey punch and cannot go there.

Smackass coconut cake

Smackass coconut cake

For the Cake:
2¼ cups cake flour
¾ cup white sugar

¾ cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup unsalted butter,
6 egg  yolks
1 cup coconut milk(this is not- the liquid that sloshes around inside a coconut-do not think you can go all primitive and use a whole coconut for this recipe- convenience is your friend)
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise

For the Frosting:
1½ cups granulated sugar
6 egg whites
1½ cups unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon coconut extract

2/3 cup sour cream-not straight out of the fridge- room temp.
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
For the Garnish:
2 cups flaked coconut- toasted

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Make the Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8-inch round cake pans; set aside.
  2. Sift the cake flour into the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the sugar, baking powder and salt and beat on low speed for 15 seconds to combine. Add the butter pieces and beat on low speed for 1 minute, or until the mixture is coarse and crumbly.
  3. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the yolks, coconut milk and the 1 cup shredded coconut until combined. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the mixture and whisk to thoroughly incorporate the seeds throughout the mixture.
  4. Add half of the coconut milk mixture to the dry ingredients and beat on medium-high for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, add the remainder of the coconut milk mixture and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds, or until the batter is well-mixed, light and fluffy.
  5. Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the tops are firm and golden brown and spring back when pressed lightly in the center. Let the cakes cool completely in the pans on a wire rack.
  6. Make the Frosting: In a small, heatproof bowl, whisk together the sugar and egg whites. Place the bowl on top of a saucepan with about an inch of simmering water (do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water). Heat the mixture, whisking occasionally, for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the mixture is hot to the touch and the sugar is dissolved.
  7. Remove the bowl from the heat and transfer the mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the mixture becomes a light, white meringue and the mixture is cool to the touch. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter a couple of pieces at a time. Increase the speed to medium and mix for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the butter is thoroughly incorporated and the frosting is smooth and glossy. The frosting may initially look curdled after adding the butter, but continue beating and it will come together, looking smooth and creamy by the end of the mixing time.
  8. Add the vanilla extract, salt and sour cream and whip for another few minutes on medium speed, or until the sour cream is thoroughly incorporated and the frosting is smooth. Again, the buttercream may look thin and separated, but continue mixing until it comes together. It will be more of a satin-like consistency, versus the thick powdered sugar frostings that are often used.

Note: Use the frosting within 30 minutes, or transfer to an airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 1 day, then beat with a mixer (using the paddle attachment) until smooth before using. You can also store the frosting in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, then bring to room temperature and beat with a mixer (using the paddle attachment) for 6 to 8 minutes until smooth before using.

  1. Assemble the Cake: Remove the cooled cakes from their pans and level the tops, if necessary. Place one cake layer on a cake stand and top with 2 cups of the frosting, using an offset spatula to spread it evenly to the edges.
  2. Place the second layer on top, top-side down. Spoon 1 cup of the frosting onto the top of the cake and use a large offset spatula to spread the frosting on top and over the sides of the cake, covering it with a very thin layer (this is the crumb coat). Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  3. Use a wooden spoon to mix the remaining frosting to lighten it up since it has been sitting. Spoon it onto the cake and spread it evenly over the top and down the sides. Use an offset spatula to create a smooth finish. Press the 1 cup shredded coconut onto the top and sides of the frosted cake. The cake can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.download

skin nourishing lotion

 Alaska can be hell on your skin- I have found this works welllotion-1024x755

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup almond oil
  • 15 drops of vitamin e oil
  • 1/8 cup beeswax pellets(i get them from amazon but craft stores sell them)
  • 3 drops carrot seed oil
  • 5 drops rose essential oil(this is for scent- so its optional)
Instructions
combine the oils and wax- i use an old jar and then put the whole jar in a pan of simmering water.  When melted, stir thoroughly and add the essential oils. I store this in a small wide mouth jar.