March 28, 2011

Mascarpone-Berry Turnovers

We're looking at a PCS in the near future and part of getting ready to move means eating your way through your freezer.  I had a sheet of puff pastry there and almost two gallons of frozen berries, so turnovers it was!  The berries were mostly blueberries, but with a fair amount of crowberries mixed in.  Yum!  Make sure to taste the filling and adjust the sugar based on the tartness of your berries.

We enjoyed our dessert with a white port.  White ports are made from a different grape than tawnies and rubies.  Most of them are not worth the glass they are bottled in, but this particular one is absolutely fantastic.  To my mind, it has the flavor of a tawny, but is much lighter, less syrupy.  Open it early, perhaps even a full day, to let it breathe.


1/4 c berries
2 T sugar
1 T flour

1 t vanilla
1/2 c berries
2 T mascarpone cheese
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed

Bring the berries, sugar, flour and vanilla to a boil.  Mash the berries to release their juices.  Remove from heat and stir in the remaining berries and mascarpone.  Set aside to cool.

Roll the puff pastry until it is about 12x12.  Slice in half (or in quarters for smaller turnovers).  Place a 3T (3t for smaller turnovers) filling on each piece of pastry.  Fold in a triangle, like a flag, and seal the edges.

Bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown.  Serve hot, with ice cream!

March 27, 2011

Salmon Salad

A few months ago, we were wandering through New Sagaya and were offered samples of their crab salad.  It was, not to put too fine a point on it, one of the most delicious things I've ever tasted.  Since then, I've had a hole in my heart and tried to fill it with this.  Now, this isn't QUITE as good as the crab salad (but really, when does salmon compare to king crab?), but it's still a great little snack, hors d'oevre, or even sandwich!

Be sure to make this the day before serving - it benefits immensely from having a day for the flavors to meld.  Additionally, do not neglect the tomato!  This is one of those magical combinations where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts!  The proportions are easily adjustable.  The amount below made two meals for me.


1/4 salmon fillet
Season salt, ground pepper, garlic, cayenne
1/4 granny smith apple, diced
1/2 stick celery, diced
1/8 c grated asiago (substitute fresh Parmesan if you'd like)
2-4 T mayo
pepper, cayenne, cajun seasoning
1 tomato, sliced

Rub the salmon fillet with the salt, pepper, garlic, and cayenne.  Grill until flaky.

Shred the salmon with a fork and mix with apple, celery and cheese.  Stir in the mayo a little at a time until the salad reaches the right consistency.  Blend in further seasonings to taste.  Serve on sliced tomato.

March 20, 2011

Pork Chops with Tequila Sauce

Yeah, so, about that picture.  As I plated, I took a bunch of shots.  With no memory card in my camera.  So you get stuck with the picture of the leftovers.  Doesn't look as pretty but still tastes delicious!

This recipe is all about the sauce.  I absolutely loooove this sauce.  I first discovered it as part of an ahi recipe (which, of course, I can no longer find).  It was nice on the ahi, but I thought it would go better with pork and boy was I right!

I roasted this baby on the Traeger.  If you happen to be unfortunately Traeger-deprived, I'd recommend searing your chops and finishing them in the oven with the beer.


4 pork chops
pepper, garlic seasoning
1/2 bottle of beer

2 T soy sauce
2 T sesame oil
dash of hot sauce
dash of garlic seasoning
dash of lime juice
2/3 c tequila

Rub the chops with pepper and garlic.  Make a little boat out of tinfoil and put the chops inside.  Add the beer.  Smoke around 220 degrees until done.

Meanwhile, heat the soy sauce and sesame oil in a skillet.  Add the hot sauce, garlic, and lime juice.  Carefully pour in the tequila and simmer until reduced by half.  Spoon over the chops and enjoy!

March 8, 2011

Pecan Pie Cookies and Bananas Foster Pastry

As I mentioned in an earlier post, each month the HH6 club puts out a cooking challenge.  The challenge for March was to come up with a concept dish for an MRE.  For those of you who do not hail from the military world, an MRE (meal ready to eat) is a box of portable, lightweight rations designed to support military members in locations where chow halls aren't readily available. 

MREs are not (despite some misconceptions) dehydrated or freeze dried.  They are actually preserved using a variation on the canning technique.  The pouch containing the food is not plastic, but more thin layers of aluminum which can be sealed airtight and processed the same way you would process canned fruits or veggies.  While this yields a significantly heavier ration (due to water content) than dehydrated or freeze-dried food, it is quicker to prepare and can even be eaten with no preparation at all if time is an issue (and in combat, it certainly could be!).

Since MREs are more canned food than backpacking food, there are actually a lot fewer restrictions in the food composition than you might otherwise have.  For example, you can have larger pieces of meat than if you were dehydrating the food first.  Still, canning tends to work best with "saucy" type things.  Rice is notoriously difficult, though apparently the military has figured that one out already!

MREs used to be, to put it plainly, awful.  In recent years as the preservative technology has advanced, they've become quite edible - though the menu choices are still fairly boring.  Click here to see the 2011 entree list.

See why we want to spice it up?

Here's a picture of the contents of a Beef Ravioli MRE.


Beef Ravioli
Beef Snack Stick
Vegetable Crackers
Jalapeno Cheese Spread
Toffee Cookies
Chocolate Chip Toaster Pastry
Orange Flavored Electrolyte drink mix
Acessory Pack
          o Xylitol chewing gum
          o Water-resistant matchbook
          o Napkin / toilet paper
          o Moist towelette
          o Seasonings, including salt, pepper, sugar, creamer, and/or Tabasco sauce

A common complaint about MREs stems from a very significant lack of fiber.  Most MREs are lucky to contain less than half the fiber that they ought to.  I plan to address this with my concept MRE.

Concept MRE: Mardi Gras Edition!

Chicken Etouffe
Whole-grain Cajun Rice
Wheat Crackers with Maple Pepper
Hard Aged Cheddar slices
Pecan Pie Cookies
Bananas Foster Pastry
Hurricane Flavored Electrolyte drink mix

Yes, we're going with the Mardi Gras theme here!  Let's break it down a bit.

Chicken Etouffe

I already blogged this recipe here.  It's fantastic and flavorful (unlike most MREs!), but not overly spicy.  I don't know anyone who doesn't like etouffe!  Traditionally you would see shrimp etouffe.  Apart from my undying hatred of shrimp, I went with chicken because eating canned meat is moderately less pleasant than eating fresh meat, but eating canned seafood is just plain nasty.

Whole-grain Cajun Rice

It's not etouffe if you aren't eating it over rice.  Plus, it's a great way to sneak a few veggies in, not to mention the fiber from whole grains.  I mentioned earlier that canning rice is very difficult, but since the MRE gods have already figured this one out, I'll leave the logistics to them.

Wheat Crackers with Maple Peppe

MREs already feature crackers quite regularly.  Seems like it would be pretty easy to just use wheat instead of white (with more fiber to boot!), and maple pepper sounds odd but is to die for on crackers.  See a fancier version here.

Hard Aged Cheddar Slices

Away with that nasty faux-cheese spread!  Dairy products are not recommended for canning by the FDA, but a good hard cheddar can (and is!) aged for years in parafin.  It'll last as long as the MRE will, and will just get better as time goes by.

Pecan Pie Cookies:

These tasty little treats are hand-held, durable versions of the traditional southern dessert.  A little chocolate brings out the flavor and you'll never notice the wheat flour - but you'll get the fiber!  Hat-tip to allrecipes for the base.

Ingredients (makes 6-8 cookies)


3/4 c flour
1/4 c wheat flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 c brown sugar
6 T butter
1/2 egg
1 t vanilla


2 T butter
1/4 c powdered sugar
1 1/2 T honey
1/2 t vanilla
1 t dark rum
1 t cocoa powder
1/4 c chopped pecans

Melt the butter.  Stir in the sugar, honey, vanilla, rum, and cocoa.  Once all the ingredients are blended, mix in the pecans.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350.

Whip the butter, sugar, egg and vanilla, then slowly beat in the flours and baking powder until dough forms.

Spoon dough into cupcake tins.  Use your fingers to form the dough into a "cup" running about 1/4 to 1/2 inch up the walls of the tin.  Fill each cup with 1 t filling.  Bake 13 minutes.

Bananas Foster Pastry
This recipe is the only one that would need to be significantly altered before being incorporated into an MRE.  However, since they already include various flavors of toaster pastry, it should be easy for them to make a bananas foster version.

Ingredients (makes 3)

1 sheet puff pastry
2 bananas
1/4 c butter
1 c brown sugar
1 t cinnamon
1/4 c tuaca or other fruit-flavored liquor
1/4 c dark rum

Cut the pastry sheet into nine squares.  Preheat oven to 350.

Melt the butter in a saucepan.  Add the brown sugar and cinnamon, stirring until well dissolved.  Add the liquor and carefully flambee until the alcohol is burned off.  Add in the bananas and cook for 5-10 minutes.  Remove bananas and slice thinly.

Grease a sheet pan.  Lay out three squares of puff pastry.  Place 3-5 (depending on thickness) slices on each sheet of puff pastry.  Spoon over some sauce, then cover each with another sheet of pastry.  Add bananas and sauce again, then cover with the final slices of puff pastry.

Bake for 20-30 minutes.  You may have to turn the tray to ensure even browning.

Serve with icecream, drizzle with any remaining sauce.

Hurricane Flavored Electrolyte drink mix

Come on, if they can make orange and lime flavors, they can make hurricane flavors!  Heck, I'm pretty sure Jello had a hurricane flavored mix a few years back.

Salmon BLT

When The Husband was on his way home from Afghanistan, he flew commercial the last leg into Anchorage.  A discussion came about on that flight when a tourist asked what the best thing to eat in Anchorage was.  All of the locals on the plane joined into the debate.  Eventually, they settled on the Glacier Brewhouse's Salmon BLT.  This sandwich is, quite simply, amazing.  In a city rife with salmon dishes, it certainly says something that this rises above all of the competition.  The crunchy, salty bacon perfectly complements the tender salmon, and a basil aioli freshens everything up.

Unfortunately, from time to time it vanishes from the menu!  There doesn't seem to be a rhyme or reason to it.  Thanks to the random vanishing, though, I decided it was time to make my own.  The focaccia comes from the Bread Baker's Apprentice.  It's time consuming, but totally worth it!  Plan ahead: You'll need two days.



2 1/2 c bread flour
1 t salt
1 t yeast
1/4 c hot water
3 T herb oil
1/2 c milk
1/4 c water
1/4 to 1/2 c herb oil

Day One

First, make the herb oil.  Gently warm olive oil to 100 degrees.  1/4 c herbs of your choice - I like italian herbs, but go crazy!  Allow oil to cool to room temperature.

Mix the yeast with the 1/4 c hot water and let sit for five minutes to waken.  While the yeast waits, combine bread flour and salt in a large bowl.  Add the yeast-in-water mix, which ought to be frothy, the herb oil, and the milk.  Stir to blend.  The dough should be quite wet, clearing the sides when you stir but sticking to the bottom.  If it is not wet enough, add the additional 1/4 c water.

Stir vigorously for 3-5, changing directions every so often.  All ingredients should be well blended.  Don't be afraid of sticky dough!  It should be soft and sticky.

Sprinkle flour on the counter, about six inches square.  Carefully scrape the dough onto the bed of flour.  Dust the top with more flour and pat it into a rectangle.  Rest five minutes.  Carefully stretch the dough from first one side, then the other.  Fold the sides over each other like a letter.  Dust with flour, cover with plastic wrap and rest 30 minutes.

Repeat the stretching, folding, and resting twice more.  After the last fold, rest 1 hour.

Prepare a 17x12 inch pan by spreading 1/4 c herb oil over it.  Carefully transfer the dough to the pan.  Using your fingers, dimple the dough, gently stretching it.  It won't fill the whole pan, but make sure it's been stretched out well - again, just use your fingertips!

Cover pan in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (will keep up to three days at this point).

Day Two

Take the focaccia out 3 hours before you plan on baking it.  Drizzle with a bit more oil and dimple again.  Set aside to rise until it's nearly 1 inch thick.

Preheat oven to 500.  Place focaccia in oven and immediately reduce to 450.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Rotate pan.  Bake an additional 5-10 minutes, or until golden brown all over.

Immediately transfer to cooling rack.  Cool 20 minutes before slicing.

Salmon BLT


1 salmon fillet, pins removed, cut into sandwich-sized pieces
salt, pepper, garlic
1 tomato, sliced
2 pieces bacon per sandwich
2 squares focaccia per sandwich
Lettuce or baby spinach

Fry up the bacon.  Remove bacon to cool; reserve a little bacon grease.  Rub the salmon with salt, pepper, and garlic.  Sear in the bacon grease, flipping once, until cooked through.

Assemble the sandwich: spread one piece of focaccia with pesto.  Add salmon, one slice tomato, two slices bacon, lettuce, and top with the other piece of focaccia.  Enjoy!

March 6, 2011

Jambalaya a la Double Musky

I have, in the past, raved about the Double Musky, the fantabulous Cajun restaurant about five miles from nowhere (or Girdwood, Alaska).  This is another from their cookbook.  Beware if you order it at the Double Musky - one order usually gives me four meals worth or more!  This version below should easily feed four people.  Another warning: this is not for wimps!  As the Double Musky says "It comes in two versions, hot and hotter!"

As usual, I tossed out the shrimp in favor of chicken.  Your mileage may vary.


1/4 c butter
2 t garlic
1/4 onion, diced
2 sticks celery, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1/2 c chicken stock
1 tomato, diced with juice
1 bay leaf
1/8-1/4 c Cajun seasoning (below)
2 hot link sausages
1 breast chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
Cooked rice, seasoned with garlic

Cajun Seasoning
2 t basil
3 t oregan
1 t salt
2 t thyme
3 t back pepper
2 t cayenne pepper
1 t white pepper
2 t garlic

First, brown the sausages, cut into slices, and set aside.

Melt the garlic and butter together.  Once it's nice and bubbly, add in the celery, pepper, and onion.  Stir until vegetables are cooked through.

 Add in the stock, tomato, Cajun seasoning, and bay leaf.

Simmer for several minutes, or until liquid is reduced by half.  Add in the meat.

Simmer until the chicken is cooked through and sauce thickened.  Serve over rice.

March 3, 2011

Strawberry-Balsamic Reduction

Well, it's been a hectic few weeks.  Between crazy work schedules, getting sick, Fur Rondy and what have you, it's been hard to motivate myself to blog!  Next week is Spring Break though, and I've already got a few recipes planned for the few days before I go on my SuperAwesomeTrip.  Now, on to the food!

This sauce is, to put it simply, amazing.  It's simple, easy to make, and delicious on just about anything.  Serve drizzled over roasted veggies, or top your ice-cream with it - you can't go wrong!  The only thing to be careful of is your vinegar.  This will make or break your sauce, so don't use the generic stuff.  Shell out a few extra bucks for something good.


1/3 c water
1/4 c honey
1/3 c balsamic vinegar
1 c chopped strawberries
2 T ruby port

Bring the water and vinegar to a boil.  Add honey, strawberries, and port.  Simmer until reduced by half.  Transfer to food processor and puree until smooth.