Wednesday, October 29, 2014

chocolate-dipped orangettes

Happy Halloween, little goblins!  This post represents a departure for Chena Girl.  I've been called many things over the course of my life.  Heidi, for starters. But, cook, forager, social butterfly, Suzy Homemaker (by my sister Holly), loud (by my brother Erik), fisherwoman, hostess, but...candymaker?  Nuh-uh.  Never. 
Hey! This post is making history!

May I present to you...the world's ugliest kitchen counter!  I'm thinking of creating a Kickstarter campaign for a new kitchen.  Thoughts?
I think it's healthy to push your personal boundaries in the kitchen.  In fact, I think pushing your boundaries is healthy in most aspects of life.  Even if you end up pushing it just a LITTLE too far.  Like the time I was trying hard not to dress too "matchy matchy" last year and showed up to work wearing nearly every color of the rainbow. Blue tights, a red printed dress, and a bright yellow scarf.  I was a walking fashion catastrophe/perfectly dressed for directing construction traffic.  I looked so ridiculous that my secretary called me "the elf" the rest of the day.  True story. 
[In fact, I used to have the photographic evidence to prove it.  But as I flipped back through the pictures on my phone, I realize that my Back to the Future Self must have deleted it in a clear attempt to save Future Self from the public shaming that she surely would have submitted herself to.]
But I digress.

I was home one Saturday folding laundry while watching TV when I noticed a woman making these seemingly easy candied orange peels dipped in chocolate.  I had 3 naval oranges on my counter, and all of the ingredients in my pantry.  So I finished the laundry, and then got to work adding a new title to my resume: Candymaker.
And they turned out GREAT!

In fact, they turned out a little too good.  My plan was to make a huge batch of them, save a handful (5-10 tops) for myself, and give the rest away as gifts to family and friends.
I'm sure my friends and family would have loved them.  Maybe next time.

Chocolate-Dipped Orangettes
(Adapted from Julia Baker)

4 oranges
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup corn syrup
3 cups water
1/2 pound semi-sweet chocolate
granulated sugar, for sprinkling

(1) Slice the rind off the oranges and slice into desired thickness. Place orange slices in a wide skillet or pan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then drain.  Repeat this process a total of three times. 

(2) Heat the sugar, syrup, and water in a medium-sized pot.  Once the sugar is dissolved and the syrup is warm, submerge the blanched orange peel in the syrup and cover with a lid that is one size smaller than the pot (this way, every peel is completely submerged).  Simmer for 60-90 minutes.  Place a wire cooling rack over a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil.  Remove the peels from the syrup (which you can save for Italian sodas!) and place them on the wire rack- the parchment/foil will catch drips and make for easy cleanup.

(3) Melt 2/3 of the chocolate chips in the microwave, stopping to stir the chips every 30 seconds.  (Be careful NOT to microwave them too long!)  Once the chocolate chips are melted, stir in the remaining 1/3 of the chips (called "seeding" the chocolate, which results in a smoother melted chocolate), and stir until melted and smooth.

(4)  Dip orange peel into chocolate and cool on parchment paper.  Sprinkle orange peel "tails" with granulated sugar, if desired.

xo h

Saturday, October 18, 2014

old-fashioned navy bean & ham soup

Fall in Alaska is that glorious 3 days of the year where the leaves turn beautiful shades of yellow and orange, there's a distinct smell of sour cranberries and wood smoke lingering in the air, and the Chugach mountains look like they're on fire with all the brilliant red of the dwarf birch and blueberry bushes.

Well, those days are long gone.  What we are left with are bare branches, a chill in the air that feels more like a "freeze" than a gentle "nip", and 1,386,798 political mailers, radio ads, and commercials.  Every.  Single.  Day. 
My pesky "day job" has been hogging so much of my evenings and weekends of late as the election nears that I've barely had time to throw a piece of toast in the toaster.   But last weekend, to thank some of my comrades at the office who have been working their little tails off with me, I made a huge pot of warm, comforting old-fashioned navy bean & ham soup.  They devoured it, bless them.

That's the beauty of good food.  It is completely, totally, 100% bipartisan.  No, it's even better than that.  It is non-partisan, a-political, and it's the kind of leadership we need in Washington, D.C.
Crap.  Sorry.  Old habits die hard!  
I love how easy this soup is to make.  Soak the beans and chop up all the ingredients the night before, then throw everything in the crockpot in the morning and walk away for 10-12 hours.  Magic.
Also, your house will smell FANTASTIC.  Best air-freshener ever.
So, turn off your TV and radio, leave your mail in the mailbox, and make this soup to brighten up a chilly fall day.  And then remember to VOTE on November 4th!

Navy Bean & Ham Soup

1 lb. dried beans, sorted and rinsed (navy, great northern, or cannellini beans are great, but whatever dried bean you have on hand should work)
9 c. water
3 medium carrots, peeled or scrubbed well and diced
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
2 cups ham, chopped, or one ham shank
1 bay leaf
2 fresh thyme sprigs, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
several grinds of fresh black pepper
a few dashes of hot sauce, such as Tobasco (optional)
1/2 teaspoon granulated toasted onion (optional)

drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, for serving

(1) In a large crock pot, soak beans in 9 cups of cold water overnight.

(2) In the morning, turn the crockpot on low.  Add all other ingredients except the olive oil.  Cook on low setting for about 8-10 hours.

(3) Remove bay leaf and thyme sprigs.  If using a ham shank, remove shank from pot and chop/shred all ham off the shank and place back in the soup pot.  May sure to "fish" around the soup for any other bones.  Taste soup and re-season with salt and pepper as needed.  Serve with a drizzle of olive oil. 

xo h