Category Archives: recipes

Crock Pot Stuffing

Eating is one of my favorite activities. That’s why Thanksgiving is so fun for me. There are about a dozen different dishes on the table and I can pick and choose from them all. Turkey isn’t the main event on my plate, but stuffing definitely would be a contender.

Last year I finally took Alton Brown’s advice and in addition to brining my turkey, I didn’t stuff it because he said it cools it down and hence makes the bird cook longer and less evenly.
This is actually the first year in a decade that I wasn’t in charge of the turkey. Instead I decided just to do the stuffing, or in this case I guess you would have to call it dressing.
Since some friends were hosting the feast I knew I would have to make the dressing easy to transport and also easy to keep warm. I also wanted to be courteous to the hosts and try not to take up their valuable post-turkey oven space.
I was perusing a slow cooker cookbook from the library the other day, and between the velveeta, onion soup mix and cream of mushroom soup ingredients I found a humble recipe called Slow Cooker Stuffing. I promptly disregarded the recipe, but it was the method I was interested in.
A Crock Pot makes a lot of sense for stuffing. It’s almost like a giant turkey — it keeps moisture in and cooks slowly. It would solve my transportation, heating and oven problems. I had to try it.
So I used my tried and true Daddy O’s Stuffing recipe and Crock Potted it instead of casseroling it. What I ended up with was moist, flavorful stuffing that tasted as though it was scooped right out of the bird.
Ingredients:
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 cups sliced crimini or button mushrooms
  • 1.5 packets of breakfast sausage links
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1 can of medium black olives, chopped
  • 14 oz. bag seasoned bread cubes
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 3/4 stick of butter
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • salt and pepper
  • A large crock pot
Directions: Start making this when you’re ready to eat breakfast. This way you can eat a couple of sausage links with some eggs while the other ones are cooling. Brown all the sausage links in a big saute pan. Once they are cooled, chop them into little rounds.
Secret ingredient: meat
Slice the mushrooms using a hard-boiled egg cutter. I love this trick I invented that I’m sure other people have also come up with! My sister broke my egg slicer last year doing this, so now I just use it for olives and eggs.
Add 1 Tbs. butter in the saute pan and heat on medium-high. Add the celery, onion and mushrooms and cook till everything is softened, about 7 minutes.
Spray the inside of the crock pot with Pam and dump in the bread cubes. Add the breakfast sausage, mushrooms, onion and celery.
Use the hard boiled egg slicer again for the olives. It’s a cinch!
Brilliant!
Add the raisins, olives, parsley, salt and pepper and mix thoroughly.
Cut the butter into little cubes and mix into the stuffing. Periodically pour in the chicken stock between mixing so everything is well incorporated.
Put the lid on the crock pot and turn it to low. Let it cook for 4-5 hours. Don’t remove the lid until you’re good and ready cause it takes a long time to reheat the crock pot.
Thank you thrift store!
Fluff up just before serving.

Greek Dolmades

One of my coworkers got married Friday and the food at the reception was superb. In addition to the several authentic Filipino dishes, there was a pita platter with those little Greek snacks wrapped in grape leaves. I’d never really been a fan in the past, but maybe it’s the pregnancy, I ate about ten of them at the reception.

I woke up early for a Sunday and all I could think about was making my very own yummy Greek snacks wrapped in grape leaves. After about 10 seconds of research, I discovered they are called dolmas, or dolmades. I found several recipes that sounded good. I settled on a combination of two recipes. I used the methods of this recipe, and the ingredients from this recipe, slightly altered.

It took me three grocery stores to find all the ingredients. The grape leaves were in the section with the jars of roasted red peppers. I was going to use dried mint because fresh mint is really pricey up here in Alaska, but one grocery store didn’t have it and another one wanted to charge more than $7.00 for a spice jar. Forget about that! I went with fresh.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to making this delicious snack that could be a meal if you’re pregnant and starving.

Ingredients:

1 onion, grated
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 cup of raw white rice
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
2+ cups water, divided
1/2 cup golden raisins, chopped
1/2 pine nuts
1/2 finely chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
1 tsp. salt
pepper to taste
several dashes of allspice, to taste
1/2 tsp. cinnamon, or to taste
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
2 lemons, juiced and sliced (slice them after juicing)
1, 8-oz. jar grape leaves, drained and rinsed

To prep grape leaves:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Lay the grape leaves flat and set into the pot. Cover and return to a boil, then turn off the heat and let the pot sit for ten minutes. Drain and set the leaves in a bowl of cold water until you’re ready to fill them.

Directions for filling:
Heat a large saute pan with 1/4 cup of oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and zest and cook, stirring once in a while, for 10 minutes. Add the rice, pine nuts and raisins and stir so that the rice is thoroughly coated in oil. Cook for 2 minutes then add 1 cup of water. Stir rice frequently and cook for 10 minutes so rice absorbs the water. If the water evaporates before this time is up, just add a bit more water.

Transfer mixture to a bowl and combine with the parsley, mint, salt, pepper, allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg. Taste mixture and make sure you like the flavor. Let it cool.

Take a dutch oven and place a plate inside of it. Cover the plate with grape leaves (use ones that are torn).

Now prepare the dolmades. Click on photos to enlarge.

Place leaf veiny side up

With a paring knife, cut away the stem

Add about 1 Tbs. filling and form it into a little sausage shape
Fold up the right corner of the leaf

Fold up the left corner

Fold in the sides

Now roll it up!

Place each finished dolma seam side down in the dutch oven so they are tightly packed in one layer. When you’ve filled the bottom of the pot cover the dolmades with a layer of grape leaves and start placing more finished dolmades on top. When you’ve used up all your filling or grape leaves or you don’t have any more room in your pot, pour 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 cup of water and the lemon juice over the dolmades. Fill the pot with more water until the water line goes halfway up the top layer of dolmades. Now fit the lemon slices all around, in between and on top of the dolmades.

Place an upside-down plate on top of it all. If there’s room, place another plate right side up. You need to add weight so the dolmades don’t come undone while they are boiling.

Place the lid on your pot and bring it to a simmer. Turn heat to low and simmer for 40 minutes. Test one of your dolmades. If the rice isn’t cooked enough, simmer for another 10 minutes.

Crock Pot BBQ Chicken on Homemade Buns

In one of Stephen’s many lunchtime thrift store pursuits, he acquired me a Crock Pot. This appliance has never existed in my home nor in my parents’ home. It is a foreign object to me. It sat in the cupboard for about two months before I finally decided to do something with it.

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are the most boring cut of meat. I don’t like cooking them because usually I create boring meals.

So I made pulled chicken sandwiches. I let the chicken cook alllllll day and shredded it up and cooked it for even longer. It turned out pretty well, except my homemade BBQ sauce tasted like sweet mutant tomato paste, so I cheated and added some Sweet Baby Ray’s and liquid smoke and everything balanced out.

The buns were a little dense, but I think it’s because the recipe I used called for instant rise yeast and I only had regular yeast so I should have proofed it. I am not including the recipe for the buns because I only did a Google search and picked the first recipe I found. I’d try a different one next time. I just really didn’t feel like going to the store just for hamburger buns.

Ingredients:
3-4 chicken breasts, mostly thawed
1 tiny can of tomato paste
2/3 of the tiny can of water
1/2 onion, chopped
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper
some dried basil
some dried thyme
1/4 cup BBQ sauce
1 tsp. liquid smoke

Directions:
Place the chicken on the bottom of the crock pot. Mix all the other ingredients in a bowl and add to the crock pot. Set crock pot to low for four or five hours. Shred up the chicken with a fork and cook another two hours.  Scoop on to a bun and enjoy.

Eggplant Parmesan

This recipe is inspired by America’s Test Kitchen, Cooking for Two.
I’ve never been a fan of eggplant, but holy moly, this stuff was GOOD.
Ingredients:
A half batch of Oliver’s Marinara
1 eggplant, about 12 oz.
Four slices of fancy white bread, torn into rough pieces
3/4 cups Parmesan
salt and pepper
3 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Directions:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Make or heat up the sauce. Slice the eggplant into 1/4-inch slices. Toss the bread into a food processor and pulse till fine crumbs are formed. Toss them into a pie pan and mix with 1/2 cup parmesan, salt and pepper.
Whisk the eggs into a separate pie pan.
Put the flour into a large ziploc and add the eggplant slices. Toss them around in the bag till they are evenly coated with flour. Shake off remaining flour. In batches, coat the slices in the egg and then in the breadcrumbs. Set them on a wire rack on top of a rimmed baking sheet.
Heat the oil in a 12-inch oven-proof pan over med-high heat. Add half of the eggplant slices and brown four minutes on each side, or till golden brown. Set them on the wire rack. After browning the second batch, turn off the heat, discard any excess oil in pan and wipe clean with paper towels. 
Coat the bottom of the pan with one cup of sauce. Place slices in the pan, overlapping one on top of the other from the outside to the inside. Top with another cup of sauce, but do not cover the outer edge of the slices so that these will stay crispy and un-soggy.
Top with remaining parmesan and sprinkle the mozzarella on top.
Place in the oven and bake for about 14 minutes, or until the top is slightly browned. Remove from oven and let sit for five minutes before serving.

I’m Back! Swedish Meatballs!

Hi all in Blogland who bother to look at KnitNatAk,
Sorry for the month-long silence. A lot has been going on and also I’ve been really lazy. I thought there’d be no better way to start blogging again than with a recipe for Swedish meatballs!

This is a really quick dinner. I recommend making a double batch and freezing half of the meatballs on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and then placing the frozen meatballs in a ziploc for another time when you have even less time.

Ingredients (makes about 24 meatballs):
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 egg
1 slice of fancy white bread, soaked in milk
1 tsp. salt
pepper
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3 Tbs. butter
4 tsp. Wondra flour (or just regular flour)
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup sour cream
egg noodles
green beans

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. When the bread has soaked up the milk, smash it up with a fork and gently squeeze out most of the milk. Mix together the meat, egg, onion, bread, salt, pepper, allspice and nutmeg. Form into 1-inch meatballs. Place them on a cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to boil.

Add the egg noodles when there is about 10 minutes left on the meatballs. Place the green beans in a pot and cover the bottom of pot with water. Cover and turn heat to high.

When meatballs are 7 minutes to being done, melt the butter in a small saucepan over med-low heat. Whisk in the flour and cook while stirring for a couple of minutes. Stir in the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Let it thicken for a couple of minutes. Add some salt and pepper to taste. Add a dash of allspice and nutmeg too if you want. Add the sour cream and turn to low.

Add the meatballs to the sauce and scrape in any yummy bits that may have ended up on the cookie sheet.

Drain the beans and noodles when they are done. Pour the sauce and meatballs over beans and noodles.

Mama Makes Pizza on the Grill

My dad is the main chef in my family. He’ll roast a chicken, toss a carbonara, and braise a pork chop. My mom has her own prize dishes: killer pot roast, sinful sopaipillas, perfect posole and her famous pizza on the grill.


So I welcome my guest blogger — Rachel!



My mom makes pizza the true Italian way — very little cheese and exotic toppings such as porcini mushrooms, kalamata olives and anchovies.


Here’s her recipe for pizza dough. It’s enough for two 10-inch pizzas.


A good pizza dough doesn’t need a lot of yeast, but it should rise for at least three hours (or four or five).  If you don’t have that much time, double the yeast and find a very warm spot to let it rise (I used to put warm water in a sink and put the bowl with the dough into it).

1 cup water
1 tsp. yeast
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 T. olive oil
3 cups bread flour (not all-purpose)

Or for more dough:


12 oz. water
1 1/2 tsp. yeast
2 1/2 tsp. salt
2 + T. olive oil
4 cups flour.

I don’t measure the yeast, salt or olive oil exactly, it works with more or less.  I put the water in the bowl of my KitchenAid, dissolve the yeast, and then add everything else and let the machine do the kneading with the dough hook.

Oh, one more thing:  up until last week, I always made one ball of dough and divided it into individual balls after rising, before rolling out.  Last week, I divided it into separate balls to rise.  When it came to rolling out the pizzas, the individually risen balls handled much more easily than in the past.


When the pizza dough is done rising, fire up your grill to hot hot hot. Roll out your dough one at a time. Roll it pretty thin — thinner than normal American pizza dough. Coat one side with semolina flour or yellow corn meal. This will keep the dough from sticking to the pizza paddle or cookie sheet. Place your rolled out dough on the pizza paddle or a cookie sheet that doesn’t have sides. Turn down the heat to your grill just a bit. Transfer the dough semolina-side up to the grill. After about a minute, check to see there are good grill marks and then remove from grill. Cover the grill again and heat it to very hot again. Now your grill will act as a super-hot oven.


Set dough on a pizza board or some kind of tray that you can easily slip the pizza off of (semolina side down). Brush with olive oil. Spread on some marinara or pesto sauce. Add toppings such as:


Fontina, parmesan, fresh mozzerella cheese
Kalamata olives
Mushrooms
Italian sausage, already sliced and cooked
Fresh basil or oregano
Roasted garlic


Try not to go overboard with toppings because this might make the pizza too heavy for the grill to support. Gently slide the pizza back onto the grill and cover the grill for several minutes, until the cheese is all melted and everything looks delicious.


Repeat with the other balls of dough.


Enjoy!!



Thanks mom! It’s one of my favorite home dishes. 


Homegrown Salad with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

In my household growing up, we ate pretty European. Pasta alla carbonara, lots of lamb and most importantly we eat our salad after the main dish. My mom always makes a simple olive oil and vinegar dressing and in the summer we always use greens from the garden. Radicchio, arugula, romaine and even nasturtium and pansies alongside greek olives and an occasional avocado and tomato on the vine.

I learned her house dressing at a young age and since then have tweaked it to become my own.

I never measure anything exactly, but the main thing to keep in mind is that it’s 2:1 oil to vinegar.

The other night I put together a basic greens salad with a honey mustard vinaigrette.

Ingredients:
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
some sort of light vinegar or fresh lemon juice
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1 tsp. honey
salt and pepper
salad greens

Use the spoon of your salad tongs to measure the oil and vinegar and combine everything in the bottom of the salad bowl. I fill the spoon up twice with olive oil and then halfway with balsamic. Then I used my parents dill and garlic flavored vinegar and filled the spoon halfway again. This makes dressing for a huge salad. Use your own judgment depending on the size of your salad. Just remember two parts oil to one part vinegar or lemon juice.

Next mince your garlic and add it to the bowl. Add your dijon, honey, salt and pepper and whisk with the salad spoon. Add your lettuce and wait to toss till right before dinner is served.

Pink Champagne Cake — Again!

Last month I made a cake for a coworker’s wedding. Instead of having centerpieces at the reception the couple had friends make cakes for each table. It was a brilliant idea. And it got a lot of my coworkers craving more of my pink champagne cake.

It seems we have a lot of August birthdays around the office, so I decided to make another champagne cake. Instead of using brut style I opted for spumante. It’s sweeter and it gave the cake a slightly different flavor.

I also opted for a different kind of icing. I had been making a butter cream cheese frosting, but I decided it was a little heavy so I made a whipped cream/cream cheese frosting. It was fantastic and it used less sugar.

Oh, also I crafted my own cake stand out of a thrift store plate and a porcelain cup.  A glue gun did the trick!

Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks of butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 egg whites
four drops red food coloring
2 cups Champagne

For the frosting:
1, 8 oz. block of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
one pint of heavy whipping cream
fresh strawberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper.
For the cake, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar for several minutes till fluffy. Mix in the vanilla. Add the egg whites one at a time then mix in the food coloring. Incorporate the flour and champagne in alternating batches of three, starting and ending the flour. This way the champagne won’t curdle. Pour into the cake pans and bake for 35 minutes or till a knife runs clean when stuck in the cake.
Let cake cool completely before removing from pans.

For the frosting, whip together the sugar and cream cheese. When fully combined, add the whipping cream and beat till you get stiff peaks. Slice up fresh strawberries for garnish.

Homemade Russian Pelmeni

Hello, my name is Natasha and I’m addicted to dumplings. I’ve gone on a bit of a bender since last Friday when I found out we have a new Russian dumpling restaurant downtown. I have eaten some sort of dumpling every day but Monday.

Last night, Kelly and I made our own. I made meat-filled dumplings, and she made potato-filled perogies. What I loved about her perogies is she fried them up in butter after boiling them. Yum yum!

In the spirit of all things dumpling, I thought I’d better post my recipe for the Russian kind. I’m sure Russians don’t use cilantro, but I despise dill and cilantro is what the restaurants here and in Juneau use anyway.

Makes about 30 dumplings

Ingredients for the dough:
1/4 cup warm water
1 egg
flour

Ingredients for the meat filling:
1/4 onion, chopped very finely
olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp. curry powder
1/2 lb. ground beef
salt and pepper

For the topping:
Butter
Curry powder
Siracha sauce (I don’t know the actual name, cause we all just call it cock sauce)
Fresh cilantro
Sour cream

Directions:
In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg and water. Incorporate flour till you have a soft, stretchy dough that isn’t sticky to the touch. Knead on a floured surface for a couple of minutes, incorporating flour if it’s still too sticky. Place the dough back in the bowl and cover for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, coat a small frying pan with olive oil and turn to med-high heat. Add the onions and the curry and saute for a couple of minutes. Add the garlic and cook till onions are fragrant and translucent, about another 3 minutes. Let this cool off the stove while you combine the beef, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Once onions are mostly cooled, add to the beef and combine well.

Roll out the dough till it’s thin like pasta dough. Using a biscuit cutter or the edge of a glass, cut circles out of the dough. Reuse the scraps as much as you can.

Add about a teaspoon of filling to each circle and fold it in half so it looks like a half moon. Crimp closed. The dough should be sticky enough to stay closed on its own without additional moisture.

Set each finished pelmeni on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

From here you could either boil the dumplings right away or place them in the freezer for later. If you freeze them, make sure to freeze them on the baking sheet before putting them in a ziploc bag or container. Otherwise they will stick together.

To prepare, bring a big pot of salted water to a boil. Add the dumplings and return to a boil. Cook until dumplings float — about 5 minutes.

Use a slotted spoon to remove dumplings and place them in bowls. Top with butter, curry powder, cock sauce, cilantro and sour cream. Enjoy!

Homemade Perogies

Back in the day when Stephen and I lived in the heart of downtown Anchorage, our favorite late-night restaurant was the Lucky Monkey on the corner of 5th Avenue and C Street. Their menu was limited. They served pelmeni, or Russian dumplings. For about $6 you’d get a bowlful topped with curry powder, sriracha sauce, cilantro and sour cream. They were THE BEST. And then they closed down. It was a sad day for downtown Anchorage.

Fast forward five years. A friend and I are cruising the downtown scene at 2 a.m. and I smell them — the scent of butter and curry and meat. I follow the sound of Euro techno and there it was: Nane’s Pelmeni. I dashed in and five minutes later I was mowing down on pure happiness. They taste just as I remembered. At $8 a bowl, it’s enough to shake that drunken edge and fill you up after a night of rocking the dance floor.

Nane’s serves meat pelmeni and potato filled ones. This morning I was craving them yet again, so I used my near mother-in-law’s dough recipe and made my own potato perogies.  They were splendid.

And here’s how I made them.

Serves two hungry people

For the dough:
1/4 cup warm water
1 egg
flour

For the filling:
1/2 cup mashed potatoes
1/4 cup grated parmesan
pepper
1 tsp. fresh chopped chives (optional)

Directions:
In a bowl whisk together the water and egg. Start adding flour till a kneadable dough forms — I think I used about a cup. Remove dough from bowl and knead for a few minutes until it’s soft but not sticky. Add more flour if needed. Form into a ball and place back in the bowl. Cover and let rest for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix together the filling ingredients. You can get creative with this. You could use cheddar and bacon bits. I used two frozen hash brown patties because I didn’t have any potatoes. I fried them up and then broke them apart with forks in a bowl. The filling should hold together when you form it into a small ball.

Fill a large pot with salted water and get it boiling while you’re making the perogies. Turn it to low if it boils before you’re done.

When the dough is done resting, roll it on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin till it’s the thickness of a noodle (so, pretty thin). With a large biscuit cutter or the edge of a glass, start cutting out circles from the dough. Fill each circle with about a teaspoon of filling. Fold the dough over so it looks like a half moon and pinch the edges all around. The dough should be sticky enough to stay together when you press the edges hard.

When you run out of circle space, ball up the dough again and roll it out. Make more perogies. Save them on a tray while you’re making them.

Place all the dumplings in the boiling water and stir gently. Turn heat to medium so it doesn’t boil so hard that it tears apart the dumplings. Boil for about 4 minutes. They should all be floating before you take them out of the water.

Use a large slotted spoon to remove the dumplings and place them in a bowls. Top with butter and a little salt.