Saturday, May 30, 2015

midnight sun granola

Can you believe it?  It's finally here!  The birds are busily chirping, the sun is shining, and the grass is a lovely shade of verdant green (unless of course it's in my yard, where its still covered in brown patches and dandelions, but I digress).  

IT'S SUMMER!!!  Or practically summer, since technically summer isn't here until June 21st.  No matter!  In Alaska, the non-winter months are so few and far between that we play a little fast and loose with the seasonal calendar.  When it's roughly 54 degrees outside on a bluebird sunny day and the children are complaining of "the heat" on the ball field, it's time to bust out the barbecue and break out the water slide because SUMMER IS HERE!

I spent the better part of the winter in Alaska down in Juneau, where it rained more than snowed, and spent most of my time getting the hang of my new job and new surroundings (and eating several batches of these without enough help).  I spent far less time exercising and taking good care of myself. Let's just say that in the battle between exercise versus beers and pizza at the Island Pub across the bridge in Douglas, you can guess which was usually the victor (and if you happen to be visiting Douglas, try "The Don" pizza-- AMAZING!) 

To make up for the pizza sins of the last few months, I am committed to walking, hiking, yogaing (is that a word?  it is now) and biking my way back into good shape.

But you still need fuel, right?  And it's always better if the fuel is delicious, crunchy, sweet granola, don't you think?  Yup, I thought so too!

This recipe is another gem from my friend Shirley Jewett of Fairbanks.  Momma Shirley has given me some of my most beloved recipes, and this one is no exception.  I've tweaked it a bit over the years.  Sometimes I add dried fruit, such as apricots, cherries, or cranberries.  Or I substitute walnuts or pecans for the almonds.  But every time I taste it, I think of spending time in the kitchen with Shirley and her daughter Stephanie, my dear friends for more than 25 years.  So much laughter and good food has come out of that little kitchen on Farmers Loop Road!  I call it Midnight Sun Granola because it reminds me of home in the Golden Heart of Alaska...Squarebanks.  OOPS, I mean Fairbanks.

(Oh, as if every Fairbanksan doesn't call it that?!)

Granola is my fuel of choice on hikes and bike rides (and boat rides, and trips to the grocery store, and while watching's really an all-purpose fuel).  So here it is:  hands down, the BEST granola I have ever tasted.  

And NOW I am ready to go hiking.  

But maybe I will start tomorrow.

Midnight Sun Granola

2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
1 cup raw almonds
6 cups oats
1 cup wheat germ
2 cups Fiber One cereal (or other fiber-y twiggy cereal)
3/4 cups vegetable oil
1 cup honey
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. 

Spread coconut on a large sheet pan and toast in the oven for 5 minutes (being very careful not to burn it).  Place in a bowl and set aside.

Toast almonds on the same sheet pan for 7-8 minutes.  Place in a bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix oats, wheat germ, and Fiber One cereal, and set aside.  

In a medium sauce pan, mix oil, honey, salt, and brown sugar and bring to a bubbly simmer.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Pour over oat mixture, and mix well.  Spread the entire mixture on a large sheet pan coated with cooking spray.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.  Remove from oven, and stir in coconut and almonds.  Cool at room temperature, then break up and store in an air tight container.

Trust me, this granola is worth all the work!!

xo h

Monday, April 13, 2015

dispatch from juneau: chocolatey no-bake cookies

Over the past few weeks, my days here in Juneau are spent in committee meetings, dealing with budget numbers, and figuring out just where to find the public lounge in the Capital Building (IT’S ON THE SECOND FLOOR, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL HOLY.  Why is this so difficult to remember when I’m in the building?!)  As a result, my appetite can be summed up in two words:  comfort food.

Hellllooooo????  What happened to "New Year’s Resolution" Heidi????  The one that was going to try eating vegetarian most days of the week, cut back on cheese, and hold the dessert?  The one that was going to try to fit back into her cute designer jeans that cost far more than they are actually worth?

I can’t find her.  She’s nowhere to be found (and frankly, neither are the jeans!)  She’s been replaced by "If It Makes Me Feel Good I’m Going To Eat It" Heidi.  I’ve met this Heidi before.  She made an appearance while studying for the bar, and again when she was buying a house.  I spotted her briefly the week leading up to an important oral argument in court.  But she’s overstaying her welcome right now.

In any event, the good news is that "Comfort Food" Heidi is cooking a lot these days.  She’s too hungry to take photos and post them, but she’s an awful lot happier when she’s in the kitchen!

Ok, enough of the third person voice.

I’ve spent a lot of the time in my tiny little Juneau kitchen lately, and it feels glorious!  Navy bean and ham soup, gnocchi with pesto, homemade ramen, and a delicious scratch bolognese recipe passed down to me from a friend whose family used to own an Italian restaurant in New York City frequented by Frank Sinatra.  (That one I hope to make again and post soon!)

Along with savory comforts, I’ve also been craving these chocolatey no-bake cookies.  My perfect little comfort food in dessert form. These treats are easily one of my favorite bites.  I think I’ve made them 3 or 4 times since I’ve been down in Juneau, and I figured it was time I shared them with others.  Many of you have certainly made these many times over the years, and they’re a classic for a reason.  For starters, they don’t involve the oven.  And for those of us who are slightly baking impaired (guilty), that’s a beautiful thing.  

My Dad was visiting in Juneau recently and, to my surprise, informed me that he’d never had a no-bake cookie.  He was extremely skeptical about them!  I could tell he figured this was simply one of Heidi’s goofy ideas.  Cookies should be baked, he thought.

After they had cooled sufficiently and were ready to eat, I handed him one to try.  He took one bite and his eyes lit up!  After he finished the cookie, Dad proclaimed, “For my very last meal, I want these cookies for dessert!”

In that spirit, I’ll likely make these cookies after the completion of the legislative budget process.  :)

Classic Chocolatey No-Bake Cookies

(Adapted from Add A Pinch)

1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into big pieces
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups quick cooking oats

In a medium sauce pan, heat sugar, milk, butter, and cocoa powder over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and cook for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and add vanilla, peanut butter and salt, and mix well. Add oats and mix until fully incorporated. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto a sheet pan covered in parchment or aluminum foil. Allow cookies to cool for 30 minutes.  Makes 2-3 dozen delicious little chocolatey bites!


xo H