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.
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